4 indicted after Summit County councilwoman accused of taking bribes

4 indicted after Summit County councilwoman accused of taking bribes
Tamela Lee (Source: FBI)
Tamela Lee (Source: FBI)
Omar Abdelqader (Source: FBI)
Omar Abdelqader (Source: FBI)
Abdelrahman Abdelqader (Source: FBI)
Abdelrahman Abdelqader (Source: FBI)
Samir Abdelqader (Source: FBI)
Samir Abdelqader (Source: FBI)

SUMMIT COUNTY, OH (WOIO) - Officials say a Summit County councilwoman was named in an 11-count federal indictment, charged with taking cash bribes and other things of value in exchange for official actions, including help with court cases, impeding a pending IRS investigation and assistance obtaining a liquor license.

Tamela Lee, 57, of Akron, was indicted on six counts:

-Conspiracy to commit honest services mail and wire fraud

-Honest services mail fraud

-Hobbs Act conspiracy

-Violating the Hobbs Act

-Obstruction of justice

-Making false statements to law enforcement

"The charges in this case are extremely serious, because our public officials owe the community the highest level of integrity and honesty," said Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. "Working with the FBI, we will continue to pursue corruption allegations so that the public can trust its elected officials."

"Ms. Lee and the three other defendants must be held accountable for their crimes," said Stephen Anthony, special agent in charge of the FBI's Cleveland office. "She was supposed to lawfully represent the people that elected her, but rather, was motivated by her own self interests. The FBI will continue to root out public corruption, whether it is elected officials that violate their oath and the law, or citizens that bribe them to do so."

Three others were also indicted.

Omar Abdelqader, 49, of North Canton, was indicted on seven counts:

-Conspiracy to commit honest services mail and wire fraud

-Honest services mail fraud

-Hobbs Act conspiracy

-Violating the Hobbs Act

-Obstruction of justice

-Two counts of making false statements to law enforcement

Abdelrahman Abdelqader, 42, of Canton, was indicted on two counts:

-Obstruction of justice

-Making false statements to law enforcement

Samir Abdelqader, 19, of Fairlawn, was indicted on one count:

-Making false statements to law enforcement

Omar Abdelqader was affiliated with several convenience stores and other businesses in the Akron area, including the Bi-Rite on Diagonal Road. Abdelrahman Abdelqader is his brother and Samir Abdelqader is his nephew, according to the indictment.

Lee solicited and accepted items from Omar Abdelqader, including money, loans, campaign contributions, home improvements, home maintenance and consumer goods. According to the indictment, these were provided directly by Omar Abdelqader, or through Bi-Rite.

In return, Lee performed and promised to perform official acts for Omar Abdelqader and other businesses in Akron, for which he served as a conduit to Lee. These actions included helping Omar Abdelqader and his designees navigate government bureaucracy, achieve favorable outcomes in judicial and administrative proceedings, as well as obtain streamlined access to information, according to the indictment.

For example, on July 5, 2013, Lee sent a letter to the State of Ohio Liquor Control Commission on behalf of Person 7's store, recommending approval of a liquor license application.

On June 8, 2014, Omar and Samir Abdelqader discussed Samir obtaining a bond regarding criminal charges he was facing. About 40 minutes later, Omar and Lee discussed the councilwoman e-mailing or calling the judge. On June 12, Lee called Judge 2's chambers several times. The next day, Lee asked Omar for money, and he directed her to Bi-Rite to collect the money, according to the indictment.

On June 14, 2014, Lee sent a text message to Omar informing him that the judge and bailiff returned her call. She then sent a text message to Omar that said, "I am going to bed, I am angry and frustrated and broke…bye," according to the indictment.

Later that day, Omar instructed Lee to send her daughter to the Bi-Rite to pick up cash. The indictment says three days later, Lee spoke to Judge 2 and told the judge she was related to Samir Abdelqader.

In July 2014, Lee and Omar spoke repeatedly about fundraising for her campaign. Omar told Person 9 that he had collected $800 in donations for Lee because she provided service, according to the indictment. "In other words, I am keeping her because we need her, man," Omar told Person 9, who responded, "She is better than an attorney to us!"

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Antoinette Bacon and Linda Barr, following an investigation by the FBI, with assistance from the Akron Police Department.

If convicted, the defendants' sentences will be determined by the court after a review of the federal sentencing guidelines and factors unique to the case, including prior criminal records (if any), their role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation.

An indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial, in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

After appearing in court on Thursday, Lee is out of jail on a $20,000 bond. Her three co-defendants are still behind bars because prosecutors say they are a flight risk.

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