Federal prosecutors on Tuesday added Ben Suarez’s company to the criminal indictment already levied against the Stark County businessman and his top executive.
The amended indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland makes Suarez Corporation Industries, the company Suarez fashioned into a global direct marketing giant, vulnerable to potential fines and civil penalties.
Suarez on Tuesday reiterated his denial of any criminal wrongdoing connected to the estimated $200,000 in improper campaign contributions he is accused of arranging and then covering up.
He also promised further litigation for a former unnamed attorney who handled the federal subpoenas issued prior to the criminal indictment filed last month against him and Michael Giorgio, his company’s chief financial officer.
“First of all, just about all of those counts, Mike Giorgio and I had nothing to do with the production of documents. That’s done by attorneys,” Suarez said Tuesday.
“We’ve not committed a crime. We have been the victims of a crime. And we’ve been the victim of a crime by corrupt politicians — which in a few weeks there’s going to be a lot of stuff coming out about this — and shyster attorneys.”
He refused to identify those “corrupt politicians” and “shyster attorneys.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland declined to comment Tuesday afternoon on the amended indictment.
Suarez, 72, and Giorgio, 61, are accused of soliciting several Suarez executives and some of their spouses into making $5,000 campaign contributions to the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign of Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and the Congressional campaign of Jim Renacci.
Both Republicans later returned the money after the donations were questioned by the Toledo Blade newspaper first in 2011.
Federal prosecutors allege Suarez’s company reimbursed the workers for their “contribution.” They further allege that Suarez pressured some workers into not cooperating with federal investigations and obstructed them by failing to provide certain documents.
Suarez denies the allegations and said the government has confused routine employee profit-sharing checks with the campaign contributions. Suarez said neither he nor Giorgio did any work in gathering documents related to the subpoena.
He said he believed his company and employees were cooperating with investigators and nothing was intentionally withheld on his order.
He did say he intends to file “a number of malpractice lawsuits” against at least one of his former attorneys, whom he blames for mishandling the federal subpoenas filed in the months leading to the criminal indictment.
He also blames the unnamed attorney for wrongly advising at least one company executive on what to tell FBI agents.
“[The former attorney] was telling people to appease the FBI and admit to things they didn’t do,” Suarez said. “So, I passed along to [one executive], ‘Do not admit to anything.’... I was just trying to save the woman from committing ‘suicide.’
“I didn’t do anything. I mean, she had no evidence on me. She couldn’t testify against me because the only one I ever dealt with was Giorgio. She’s been a friend for 30 years and I was just trying to help her.”
To defend himself against a possible prison term of upwards of 20 years, Suarez has assembled a team of attorneys from Miami, Chicago and Northeast Ohio.
One of those attorneys, Roger Synenberg, last week filed papers removing himself from the Suarez criminal case. Suarez said Synenberg stepped aside because a son of the Cleveland-area defense attorney works for Mandel’s office.
Meanwhile, the case against Suarez is not expected to go to trial until at least June. Suarez said he is optimistic that he and his company will prevail.
“The whole indictment is weak because [the government] has been provided with a lot of false information,” Suarez said. “There’s no possible chance for them to win at trial.”