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Cuyahoga County corruption: Who's in prison? Who's still 'home for the holidays'?

10:43 AM, Dec 7, 2010   |    comments
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Michael Tobin, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office, said  those defendants who have pleaded guilty yet have been awaiting sentencing for months and months -- some as many as 17 months -- must fulfill their plea agreements.

Most of those plea agreements include providing information regarding other cases and other defendants.

Only then will they be sentenced, as some have likely negotiated pleas for possible lesser sentences in exchange for information and/or testimony.

The probe, which had been going on for three years behind closed doors, went public July 28, 2008, when nearly 200 FBI and IRS agents made simultaneous raids on offices and homes of government officials and business owners.

The first defendants were charged June 12, 2009, almost a year later. 

Three defendants -- J. Kevin Kelley, Frank Russo and Jimmy Dimora -- have been mentioned by name or by number (Public Official 2 and Public Official 1, respectively) in federal documents more than any other defendants, according to court records.

Kelley, former president of the Parma school board and former employee of the Cuyahoga County Engineer, was the first to be charged (June 12,2009), along with former Engineer's office chief of staff Kevin F. Payne, retired Engineer's chief of staff Daniel Gallagher, and former Alternatives Agency co-executive director Brian Schuman.

All four pleaded guilty July 1-2, 2009. Payne died of cancer Nov. 21 while awaiting sentencing. Kelley and his family moved to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area after he pleaded guilty.

Kelley, Gallagher and Schuman are all awaiting sentencing and will be home for the holidays.

Russo, 60, of Bratenahl, the former Cuyahoga County auditor (Public Official 2), was eventually charged Sept. 9, pleaded guilty to 21 charges Sept. 16, and will be officially sentenced Dec. 15 to just over 21 years in prison.

He, too, will be home for the holidays, as he has asked U.S. District Judge Kate O'Malley to have his sentence begin in May so he can be home for the birth of two of his grandchildren.

But without comment, O'Malley denied Russo's request to attend a family wedding this coming weekend in Las Vegas.

Dimora, 55, of Independence, was arrested Sept. 14, charged and pleaded not guilty Sept. 16, and has a trial scheduled to begin Sept. 12.

Also arrested and pleading not guilty Sept. 14-15 and awaiting trial are Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judges Bridget McCafferty, 44, of Westlake, and Steven Terry, 59, of Cleveland; former auditor's office deputy auditor Samir Mohammad, 44, of Cleveland; former auditor's office employee Michael Gabor, 51, of Parma; and Jerry Skuhrovec, 63, of Independence, a former auditor's office employee, who pleaded not guilty when charged Sept. 15.

Mohammad's trial is scheduled to begin April 18.

McCafferty, first elected to the bench in 1999, lost her bid for re-election Nov. 2. Both she and Terry were temporarily removed from the bench Sept. 15, pending the outcome of their trials.

Both are still being paid their judges' salaries while visiting judges -- who are also being paid -- hear their cases. McCafferty's salary will end when her term ends Jan. 11.

On Nov. 23, McCafferty asked O'Malley to separate her trial from the trial of Dimora, Gabor and Skuhrovec but O'Malley has yet to rule on that request. Terry is scheduled for trial starting May 9.

So far, only one defendant -- Thomas Greco Jr. -- has pleaded not guilty and gone to trial on bribery charges. After deliberating five hours, a jury found the former MetroHealth Medical Center construction official guilty June 8.

His scheduled Aug. 12 sentencing was postponed and is now scheduled for Jan. 26 at 2 p.m.

Defendant Anthony Ma, 75, of Moreland Hills, died Nov. 5 from complications following a stroke. Ma was charged May 24, pleaded guilty Aug. 2, and was awaiting sentencing.

He was the owner of Broma Information Technology and admitted paying kickbacks to get government contracts.

Who is spending the holidays in prison?

Nilesh R. Patel, 44, former vice president of East West Construction, who pleaded guilty Sept. 9, 2009, and was sentenced Aug. 4. He is in the Federal Correctional Institution in Morgantown, West Virginia, serving 42 months.

Patel testified against Thomas Greco Jr. at Greco's June trial.

Also already in FCI Morgantown is Bruce Zaccagnini, 50, of North Royalton, an attorney and a partner in BelCuy, who pleaded guilty Oct. 2, 2009, and was sentenced Feb. 2 to five years in prison.

Timothy Armstrong, 66, an attorney, began his 42-month prison sentence on Feb. 3 in the FCI Manchester, Kentucky, and already repaid the entire $1,573,345 in restitution the court imposed. 

So, who will be sentenced over the holidays or early next year?

Friday (Dec. 10): Vince Russo, 31, of Willoughby Hills, son of Frank Russo and owner of Vincore, is expected to be sentenced to 18 months to start in January after the birth of his child. On Friday, the time of his sentencing was changed to 11 a.m.

Dec. 13: Steven Canepa, 43, the former business manager for Maple Heights schools, pleaded guilty Oct. 1. Charged on Aug. 16, he resigned from his then-position as business manager for the West Geauga school district on Aug. 23. (He had been on medical leave from West Geauga since May).

Dec. 14:  Todd Gemma, principal of Gemma Development Group, who pleaded guilty July 1; Kenneth Kushmider, owner of Landscape Design Associates, who pleaded guilty July 2; and Ronald Monroe and Bryan Carlton, principals of Gemma Development Group, who pleaded guilty July 2.

Dec. 15: Frank Russo; Rocky Laurie, an employee of Maple Heights schools, who pleaded guilty July 1; Shannon Riley, owner of Riley Industrial Services, who pleaded guilty July 2; and Dinesh Bafna, president of Mont Granite, who pleaded guilty Dec. 8, 2009.

Dec. 17: Charles Edwards, owner of C. Edwards Landscape, who pleaded guilty Oct. 1.

Dec. 20: Joseph P. O'Malley, former employee of the auditor's office and the recorder's office, who pleaded guilty May 27.

Jan. 13: Ronald Romanini, 59, of Mayfield, retired founder of Mentor-based Willoughby Supply, who pleaded guilty Oct. 20. Sentencing is set for 1:30 p.m. (Sentencing previously set for Jan. 5)

Jan. 19: John J. Carroll, 62, of Aurora, former vice president of facilities and construction services at MetroHealth Medical Center. Carroll testified in June against Thomas Greco Jr. during Greco's trial.

Jan. 26: Thomas Greco Jr.

Who's the latest defendant? 

On Nov. 23, federal agents arrested attorney William Mitchell Jr., 61, of Westlake, and charged him with a million-dollar bribery conspiracy involving Frank Russo over a 10-year period.

Mitchell, unlike his law partners Timothy Armstrong and Bruce Zaccaganini who cooperated with federal officials and entered into plea agreements, was indicted, arrested and charged.

He pleaded not guilty and, so far, his trial has been scheduled to begin Jan. 31 at 9 a.m.

He makes the 46th person charged in the probe. Officials have said more defendants will be charged in the coming months.

Other defendants

There are 16 other defendants not mentioned here so far. All 16 have pleaded guilty and are all awaiting sentencing. Three are "higher-profile" than others.

The higher-profile include Steven Wayne Pumper, 46, former CEO of D-A-S Construction, charged July 8, 2009, with four counts of bribery and one count of fraud. He pleaded guilty July 17, 2009.

Pumper was the fifth person charged in the probe and, like Kelley, Gallagher and Schuman, has been awaiting sentencing since July 2009.

Former Lakewood Mayor (1978-1990) and state Senator (1991-1994) Anthony Sinagra  was charged Aug. 13, 2009, and pleaded guilty Aug. 31, 2009.

Sinagra, 69, admitted bribing Kelley in exchange for getting consulting work from the Parma school district. He also admitted getting paid $190,000 from Alternatives Agency for doing little or no work.

Former Maple Heights school board member (1981-2005) and auditor's office appraisal specialist Santina "Sandy" Klimkowski was charged Sept. 18, 2009, and pleaded guilty Oct. 2, 2009.

Klimkowski, 58, faces four years in prison after admitting taking $154,000 in bribes and helping direct an additional $1.22 million in kickbacks to Russo from representatives of V.A.S. Enterprises.

Klimkowski has admitted bringing the nearly $1.22 million in bribes to Russo personally.

All were charged early in the probe and court documents show that they were involved with Public Official 1 and Public Official 2. At that time, neither Dimora nor Russo had been charged but the descriptions in court documents matched their job descriptions.

Although Russo has pleaded guilty, Dimora intends to go to trial and federal officials may require testimony from anyone who is still "awaiting sentencing."

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