CINCINNATI - Former State Representative, Butler County Commissioner, and Children Services Director Michael Fox has pleaded guilty to federal mail and wire fraud charges.
Fox pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and to filing a false tax return in Federal Court in Cincinnati Wednesday afternoon. The false tax return stems from 2002 when Fox failed to report $460,000.
Four counts of mail fraud against Fox were dropped in exchange for the plea agreement which will send Fox to prison for four years. He must also pay restitution to the IRS. The amount has not been determined.
Fox, 62, sent 9 News an e-mail Wednesday afternoon citing his mother's poor health and the recent birth of two grandchildren, twin girls, as being the most important factors in deciding to accept a plea agreement. He said he wanted to be able to help take care of his mother and also be able to see his new granddaughters. He said he took the plea deal because he didn't want to spend a possible 23 years in prison.
Fox had pleaded not guilty to several charges alleging that he benefited from a multi-million dollar contract to build a fiber optic communications system in Butler County.
The case dates back to 2001 when Fox was a County Commissioner. He and long-time friend Robert Schuler, a Dublin attorney, allegedly conspired to develop a fiber optic ring around the county.
Schuler bought a company named Normap.
Normap was paid over $1.8 million, according to a superceding indictment filed last August.
The indictment accused Fox of wrongfully using his public office for personal gain relating to the contract with Schuler and Normap.
A business associate of Schuler's is alleged to have sent Fox $460,000 in 2002 which Fox used to pay off a $303,000 loan.
Fox allegedly failed to report the payments to the IRS.
Fox also assisted the now defunct Dynus Corporation with getting millions of dollars in loans from local banks, according to court documents.
Butler County Commissioner Chuck Furmon called the FBI when he became suspicious of the county's role in obtaining the loans for Dynus.
After learning about the plea, Furmon said, "When I called the FBI I didn't know who was involved or how many people. I commend the FBI and federal prosecutors. It took a lot of years to unravel a very complicated issue."
Former commissioner Greg Jolivette said, "Mike's whole career there were people who loved him and there were people who hated him. So, there are people who are really sad today and there's probably people who are drinking champagne."
Jolivette added that this is a sad day for Fox and the county but a good day for justice and the importance of holding politicians accountable.
The investigation resulted in guilty pleas from former Butler County Auditor Kay Rodgers, Dynus Vice President Jim Smith, and the conviction of former Dynus President Orlando Carter.
Schuler who was indicted for filing a false tax return and lying to a grand jury changed his plea of not guilty Wednesday afternoon at the same hearing.