- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

CLEVELAND (AP) - An executive accused of funneling illegal campaign contributions to two Republican candidates in 2011 pleaded guilty to federal campaign charges on Monday.

Michael Giorgio, the chief financial officer for Suarez Corporation Industries in North Canton, pleaded guilty to charges that involve conspiracy to commit campaign fraud, making contributions in someone else’s name, making contributions on behalf of a corporation, witness tampering and making a false statement.

As part of a plea agreement, Giorgio, who lives in the Akron suburb of Cuyahoga Falls, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. His attorney, Ralph Cascarilla, declined to comment.

Giorgio and company founder Ben Suarez were accused of funneling about $100,000 each to the 2012 re-election campaign of U.S. Rep. James Renacci and to the unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign of Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel.

Both campaigns returned the contributions after learning of allegations that Giorgio and Suarez had bundled contributions in the names of employees and their spouses.

According to the plea agreement, Suarez told Giorgio in April 2011 “to recruit managers and executives” of the company to make $5,000 contributions in their names and those of their spouses to a U.S. House candidate, later identified as Renacci.

Giorgio understood that corporations were not permitted to make campaign contributions and that he could not use other people’s names, the plea agreement said. Giorgio told the employees the amounts they contributed would be repaid in their next paychecks, it said.

The same thing occurred several months later, the plea agreement said, but this time the contributions were for a U.S. Senate candidate, later identified as Mandel. According to the plea agreement, when Giorgio expressed concerns about the practice, Suarez replied: “The lawyers don’t know.”

Suarez’s Washington-based attorney could not be reached for comment by telephone on Monday.

Renacci spokeswoman Megan Taylor said in a statement that the congressman was “never a target” of the investigation.

“This is strictly a matter between the named individuals and the Justice Department,” the statement said.

Messages and emails seeking comment were left with Mandel’s office.

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