Lawmaker indicted in spending probe

AMANDA LEE MYERS JULIE CARR SMYTH Associated Press Published:

COLUMBUS (AP) -- A state lawmaker was indicted Wednesday on 49 charges of theft, corruption and money laundering after authorities say he skimmed nearly $130,000 in campaign funds for his personal use and failed to list campaign expenditures for six years.

Rep. Clayton Luckie, a four-term Dayton Democrat, surrendered to authorities and was scheduled for a bond hearing Wednesday. The hearing was postponed by a few hours after Luckie experienced an unspecified medical issue while being booked into the Franklin County jail and was taken to a hospital.

At a news conference earlier in the day announcing the charges against him, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien and Cincinnati-based FBI agent Edward Hanko said Luckie regularly tapped into campaign funds for personal purposes, including making retail purchases, paying the mortgage and for roof repairs on his home, and visiting casinos.

Luckie faces "dozens and dozens" of years behind bars if convicted, O'Brien said.

Hanko said Luckie falsely identified his personal accountant as his campaign treasurer and things "snowballed from there."

"Every signature and every submission he made since 2006 was false," Hanko said a news conference. "So, in my mind, it's a very simple case. We all learn this as children: You don't cheat, lie or steal. When you're an elected official, that goes even tenfold, and Mr. Luckie just never learned that those are some tenets in life that we all go by."

Luckie didn't return calls or emails to his home or legislative office Wednesday morning.

His attorney, Lloyd Pierre-Louis, said Luckie plans to plead not guilty to all the charges. He declined to comment further, saying his only statements in the case will come in court.

Luckie isn't seeking re-election next month, but he has said he will finish out his term ending in December.

Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder, a Republican, called on Luckie to resign, saying it was in the best interest of the Legislature and Luckie's district.

Sarah Bender, a spokeswoman for the Ohio House Democratic Caucus, said Democrats "will be prepared to take quick action to find a replacement" if Luckie resigns and that they have begun replacing his position on various committees.

In an investigation that began 18 months ago, the FBI found that between 2006 and this year, Luckie made nearly 170 ATM withdrawals amounting to $19,000 and made more than 800 debit card transactions totaling about $40,000.

The ATM withdrawals included $1,700 at casinos in Indiana, Florida and West Virginia, and debit transactions of $100 to $1,300 at businesses including Nordstrom, Best Buy, a jewelry store and a home furnishings store, according to the indictment.

Twelve of the transactions were identified as money laundering in which the transfers were "designed to hide the source of the funds in an apparent legal financial transaction or to further corrupt activity," according to a news release announcing the charges.

One theft count stems from a $625 check made out to the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus that authorities say Luckie deposited in his personal bank account, rather than turning it over to the group.

The indictment also accuses Luckie of failing to list four separate loans of debts of more than $1,000, including a loan of more than $4,000 for a jet ski, a more than $3,000 loan for a Dayton jewelry store and a $4,000 debt to a roofing company.

Luckie missed legislative votes in September amid the investigation.

Democrats currently hold 40 of 99 seats in the Ohio House. O'Brien is a Republican.

In an earlier statement, Luckie said the investigation wasn't related to bribery, but to "errors on some reports that are currently being addressed." He declined to say anything more on the matter "out of respect for the process."

A day after the investigation became public, Luckie announced he wouldn't run again for the 39th House District, which includes much of Dayton. Before being appointed as a state representative in 2006, Luckie spent a decade on the Dayton school board.

Democrats in Montgomery County chose former state legislator Fred Strahorn to replace Luckie on the Nov. 6 ballot. Strahorn, who has served in both the state House and Senate, faces Republican Jeff Wellbaum, an Iraq war veteran from Kettering.

Luckie's indictment came in the ongoing investigation into legislative activities surrounding the payday lending industry. O'Brien said Luckie failed to report a campaign contribution from the payday lending industry, which prompted investigators to look further into his spending reports.

Another state representative, Columbus Democrat W. Carlton Weddington, is serving three years in prison as part of the payday lending probe.

Weddington pleaded guilty in June to charges of bribery, election falsification and filing a false financial disclosure statement after authorities said he took trips and cash in exchange for taking steps to introduce legislation. He resigned and surrendered to authorities in March.

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Myers reported from Cincinnati.

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