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Former Columbus Lobbyist Sentenced To One Day In Prison For Accepting Bribes

Former Columbus lobbyist John Raphael
Former Columbus lobbyist John Raphael

On Thursday, the United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio sentenced former Columbus lobbyist John Raphael to one day in prison with three years of supervised release.

According to the clerk's office, Raphael was also issued $28,251 in restitution and $100 in special assessment fees.

In February, the former lobbyist pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges, where investigators said he accepted bribes from a food vendor in exchange for a favorable contract with the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

According to a criminal complaint, filed in December, Raphael billed clients what he called “success fees," which were, in reality, bribes. The kickback scheme spanned from 2013-2015, during which Raphael received approximately $144,000.

Raphel sat on the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority board when it started a competitive bidding process to select a food vendor for the Greater Columbus Convention Center, which it owned and operated.

Raphael forwarded information to a company bidding on the contract that he did not forward the other three companies. Less than an hour after receiving a draft contract and request for proposal for review as a board member, Raphael forwarded that information to just one company competing for the bid.

According to past WOSU reporting, Company A may be Centerplate, which had Raphael on its payroll. The GCCC removed Centerplate as its main vendor in 2016 after the bribery scheme came to light, and fired then-convention center manager Rodney Myers after it discovered he was also being paid by Centerplate.

In 2016, Raphael was also sentenced to 15 months in federal prison when he pleaded guilty to one count of extorting thousands of dollars in campaign contributions for Columbus city officials from Redflex, a company that supplies red-light cameras and other vehicle monitoring systems.

Some of those contributions went to Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and former mayor Michael Coleman.

Michael Lee joined WOSU in 2021, but was previously an intern at the station in 2018. He is a graduate from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism where he obtained his master's degree, and an alumnus of Ohio State University. Michael has previously worked as an intern at the Columbus Dispatch and most recently, the Chicago Sun-Times.