Attorneys say businessman didn't mean to break law


CLEVELAND — Attorneys defending a northeast Ohio businessman say he didn’t willfully break the law when he reimbursed employees and others with company funds after asking them to donate to two prominent politicians.

Seventy-two-year-old Ben Suarez is on trial in federal court in Cleveland on charges that include conspiracy to violate federal campaign laws, obstruction and witness tampering.

Suarez and his North Canton-based Suarez Corporation Industries are accused of funneling donations to the 2012 Republican campaigns of U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid, hoping they’d help him with a California civil matter.

A prosecutor said in her opening statement today that Suarez was politically savvy and understood how the system works.

Suarez could face up to 12 years in prison if convicted.