Ex-councilman Jeff Pastor's home faces sheriff's sale as debts mount in wake of public corruption scandal

Pastor faces two years in prison, and owes taxpayers $117k, after public corruption scandal
Former Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor leaves the federal courthouse on April 27, 2022.
Posted at 2:53 PM, Aug 16, 2023

CINCINNATI — Former Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor owes taxpayers more than $117,000 and city, Hamilton County and federal officials want to be repaid.

A federal judge ordered Pastor on Aug. 10 to repay the $15,000 in bribe money he took from FBI undercover agents who were posing as real estate developers in a massive scandal that encompassed City Hall in 2020.

Pastor pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud in June and faces up to two years in prison when U.S. District Court Judge Matthew McFarland sentences him later this year. His plea deal requires repayment of the bribe money.

“In all likelihood, Jeff is going to have to come up with that money one way or another or the plea deal could fall apart,” said Steve Goodin, a former prosecutor who briefly replaced Pastor on City Council after his arrest in November 2020.

Pastor did not respond to a request for comment made through his attorney.

But court records show he is facing financial troubles.

A Hamilton County judge ordered Pastor on Monday to sell his Avondale home to pay $27,912 in delinquent property taxes since 2021. The Rose Hill Avenue home that Pastor and his wife Tara bought for $500,000 in 2018 will be sold by sheriff’s sale.

Pastor and his wife owe North Side Bank and Trust $436,898 on the home’s mortgage as of June 1, according to court filings by the bank which asked to be repaid once the house is sold.

Former Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor and his attorney Karen Savir did not speak to the media after he pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud on June 7, 2023.
Former Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor and his attorney Karen Savir did not speak to the media after he pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud on June 7, 2023.

But there are other debts. Pastor and his wife owe $1,413 in unpaid city income taxes, as well as nearly $22,000 in court judgments for credit card bills, unpaid tuition at Xavier University Montessori Lab School and medical bills.

“He was in a really bad financial place,” Goodin said about the father of five. “I don’t think it will be unexpected for Mr. Pastor to declare bankruptcy.”

Pastor, 39, had worked as the executive director for the Charles L. Shor Foundation for Epilepsy, and before that as a teacher at King Academy Community School.

“Someone who is under federal indictment for these kinds of charges and someone who has been subject, correctly, to this kind of publicity is probably unemployable at this point,” Goodin said.

PG Sittenfeld and Jeff Pastor

FBI agents arrested Pastor at his home in the early morning hours of Nov. 10, 2020. In addition to wire fraud, a federal grand jury charged Pastor with bribery, attempted extortion, money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He was accused of taking $55,000 in bribes, and a luxury weekend trip to Miami on a private plane, in exchange for votes on two development deals.

In the plea deal, Pastor only admits to taking a $15,000 bribe in October 2018 but he continued to ask for more money afterward.

While Goodin said he doesn’t excuse Pastor’s crime, “We do know that Mr. Pastor’s financial circumstances are very tough. He will present I think a relatively sympathetic portrait at the sentencing hearing about his finances.”

A week after the FBI arrested Pastor, they took then Councilman PG Sittenfeld into custody for allegedly taking thousands in bribes in an unrelated case.

Days after Pastor and Sittenfeld’s arrests, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced he would initiate suspension proceedings against them with the Ohio Supreme Court.

Several council members and then-Mayor John Cranley called on Pastor and Sittenfeld to resign. Instead, both voluntarily agreed to be suspended, which means they kept receiving paychecks until their terms ended nearly 14 months later.

Jeff Pastor served on Cincinnati City Council from 2018 until his arrest in November 2020.
Then Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor at a committee meeting in 2018.

Cincinnati taxpayers likely spent more than $152,000 on both salaries. State law allowed them to collect full salaries until their cases were resolved or their council terms expired on Jan. 3, 2022.

Now that both have been convicted, a city spokesperson said the solicitor’s office will move to recoup those salaries after Pastor and Sittenfeld’s sentencing hearings later this year.

“The city’s ability to collect it ultimately from Mr. Pastor — that’s up in the air,” Goodin said.

Even if Pastor lacks the funding to repay the city, Goodin predicts solicitors will still try to collect. State law allows the city to file a lawsuit to get the money.

“In my view, they really don’t have any choice, otherwise it looks as though you’re sort of condoning the conduct. These are taxpayer dollars,” said Goodin.

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