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Hamilton mayor resigns after insurance scandal conviction

The mayor of Hamilton has announced that he will resign from his high-paying job after he was convicted of taking bribes. The man faces up to 20 years of prison time in connection with the felony offenses, which include five counts of bribery and extortion. Jurors spent about four hours deliberating after the relatively short trial, returning guilty verdicts on all charges after the Nov. 20 proceeding.

The mayor's sentencing hearing is scheduled for late February, according to local officials.

The man was arrested in April and charged with accepting more than $10,000 in bribes from a health insurance sales representative. Investigators say the mayor promised the woman that she could retain a district contract with local schools that would have brought nearly $4 million in commissions over a three-year span.

Unbeknownst to the mayor, the woman had become a cooperating witness in the case. She chose to record her conversations with the man, which were later submitted to the FBI. Another local government employee pleaded guilty to money laundering in the case, admitting that he served as a go-between during the bribery scandal.

The man was elected in 2007 after ousting an incumbent candidate. He immediately began a restructuring process that involved replacing several department directors. Two of those directors were also implicated in the scheme. Both have vacated their positions in connection with the incident. The town's recreation director resigned on Nov. 19 after her name was raised by witnesses in the courtroom trial. That director's husband, who is a school district business administrator, has been placed on administrative leave.

This case provides an excellent example of a potential contributor who avoided jail time by cooperating with authorities. The health insurance broker in this case could have faced significant punishment if she had chosen not to cooperate, but her willingness to work with law enforcement authorities allowed her to dodge time in federal prison.

Source: The Times, "Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo resigns after being found guilty of taking $12,400 in bribes," Mike Davis, Nov. 20, 2012.

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