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Former Columbus lobbyist begins serving prison sentence

Former Columbus Lobbyist John Raphael was sentenced to 15 months in prison for extortion. (WSYX/WTTE)

A former Columbus lobbyist convicted of extortion is now locked up and will begin serving his 15-month prison sentence.

John Raphael, 61, showed up at the Federal Correctional Institution Williamsburg Thursday, located in Salter, South Carolina, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

Raphael pleaded guilty to threatening red-light-camera company, Redflex to make campaign contributions to city officials in exchange for contracts with Columbus.

The well-known lobbyist admitted what he did was wrong, but also maintained that city leaders like Mayor Andrew Ginther, former Mayor Michael Coleman and former City Council President Michael Mental had no knowledge of his dealings with Redflex.

Once Raphael is released from prison, he said he plans to “rebuild [his] life and service other and the community in any way [he] can.”

Raphael lied to FBI investigators last year when he was interviewed in order to conceal his dealings with Redflex as well as with officials in both Cincinnati and Columbus, according to court records.

In June, Raphael was convicted on one felony count of interference with commerce by threats. He was also fined $5,000 after he opted to accept a plea deal.

During his June sentencing Raphael said, “I’m not taking one for the team and I’m not withholding anything from the government.”

If Raphael serves the entire prison sentence, he’ll be released in November 2017.

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