The first pretrial hearing for Stark County businessman Benjamin Suarez and his co-defendant, indicted on charges of violating campaign finance laws, is scheduled for next week in federal court.
Attorneys for Suarez, 72, founder and owner of Suarez Corp. Industries in Jackson Township, and the firm’s chief financial officer, Michael Giorgio, 61, of Cuyahoga Falls, are scheduled to appear at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 9 at the federal courthouse in downtown Akron.
The only purpose of the hearing, according to court records, is for the attorneys to schedule future proceedings, which invariably means the court has excused the defendant from attending.
Roger M. Synenberg, lead counsel for Suarez, declined to comment Tuesday on any aspect of the hearing or the government’s case, which has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Gaughan.
Both men, who are listed as co-defendants in the Sept. 24 indictment, are charged with an elaborate conspiracy involving violations of campaign finance laws, making false statements and obstruction of justice.
Suarez also faces a charge of witness tampering for attempting to “influence, delay and prevent” a witness from testifying before a federal grand jury.
Federal prosecutors, acting on an FBI investigation that began in August 2011, have accused Suarez and Giorgio of funneling about $200,000 in what is known as “conduit contributions” to the 2012 general election campaigns of U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, who was defeated in his U.S. Senate bid by incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Court records show both defendants were released Sept. 25 after posting $50,000 appearance bonds. A federal magistrate ordered Suarez and Giorgio to surrender their passports, which they did, and to refrain from contacting each other except for business matters directly related to their work at the company.
According to the company website, www.suarez.com, Suarez started a mail-order business out of his home in 1970. The company, now known as SCI, has become a worldwide marketing firm claiming hundreds of “Innovative Products for Better Living,” with annual sales of $250 million, the website says.
Court records show attorneys Darrell A. Clay and Ralph E. Cascarilla of Cleveland are representing Giorgio.