- Associated Press - Saturday, January 30, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Just as former Ohio Treasurer Kevin Boyce thought a bribery scheme that sent his ex-deputy to federal prison was behind him, federal securities regulators released a report that placed Boyce in the room at a meeting where contributions were demanded for state business.

Boyce wasn’t implicated or charged in a lengthy federal bribery probe and his lawyer says he wasn’t at the meeting. But that doesn’t mean the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s passing reference hasn’t become a political hot potato.

“This is a very, very serious allegation and all along it seemed to me that there was a tremendous amount of attention paid to (then-Deputy Treasurer) Amer Ahmad and his role in all this but Treasurer Boyce was kind of given a pass,” Ohio Republican Chairman Matt Borges says. “He has continued on in public office and he’s running for another public office this year.”

Boyce was a Democratic city councilman in Columbus when he was appointed treasurer in 2009. He lost a nasty re-election contest, but was back in government a year later, appointed to fill a vacant seat in the Ohio House. With term limits looming, he’s making a run this year for Franklin County commissioner.

Boyce’s attorney, Larry James, said the SEC got it wrong. Its report described Ohio’s “incumbent Treasurer” in March 2010 - which was Boyce - attending an “in-person” meeting where Ahmad and two others later convicted as co-conspirators in a bribery scheme met with representatives of Boston-based State Street Bank & Trust.

James said Boyce’s potential involvement in any wrongdoing was “examined microscopically” by the FBI and U.S. Attorney, and he was found blameless.

Prosecutors say that between 2009 and January 2011, Ahmad, friend Mohammed Noure Alo, Canton-based financial adviser Douglas E. Hampton and Chicago mortgage broker Joseph Chiavaroli conspired to use Ahmad’s position at the state treasurer’s office to enrich themselves and their businesses by securing lucrative state business.

Ahmad and Chiavaroli hid payments from Hampton using the accounts of a landscaping business in which the two had ownership interests, and Hampton also funneled money through Alo. Hampton paid more than $500,000 in bribes to receive about $3.2 million in commissions for securities trades on behalf of the Ohio treasurer’s office, prosecutors said.

Ahmad was sentenced to 15 years, and the other three men to terms ranging from 18 months to four years in prison.

The SEC only begins its civil proceedings in such cases after the criminal case has concluded. Its press office did not return a call seeking comment on the Boyce reference made in its $12 million settlement agreement with State Street.

Treasurer’s office emails from the time list Boyce as an attendee at the March 3, 2010 meeting, even showing that his personal assistant ordered him a Bistro Club sandwich for the occasion.

“He ate and left. It was one of those meet-and-greets,” James said. He said Boyce’s recollection is that he stopped in briefly but was not there for the part of the meeting where the SEC says “Ahmad demanded that State Street make direct monetary contributions to the incumbent Treasurer’s campaign.”

“The allegation that Kevin was in the room has no basis in fact,” James said.

The SEC says State Street executive Vincent DeBaggis, who was at the meeting, followed up the same day with an email to the bank’s vice president about the political contributions. In the email, DeBaggis reported he had met with the treasurer, and “we will need to find a way to do this,” according to the SEC.

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