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Main Defendant: Jimmy Dimora

2:10 PM, Dec 20, 2011   |    comments
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The FBI says former Cuyahoga County Commissioner James C. "Jimmy" Dimora was the main target of the ongoing county corruption probe from the very beginning.

Dimora, 56, of Independence, was also the longtime chairman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, stepping down in June, 2009.

  • Federal prosecutors assembled a series of indictments and charges against Dimora's co-workers, business associates and county employees well before they charged Dimora himself.

On July 28, 2008, a bright sunny day in Northeast Ohio, about 200 FBI and IRS agents with search warrants fanned out across Northeast Ohio, raiding the offices and homes of county employees, elected officials, business contractors and others.

Dimora's home and office were among those searched.

That was the first time the probe went public. The FBI said the investigation had begun in secret in 2005 and included wiretapping of phones, compiling more than 64,000 hours of recordings.

Dimora's co-defendant in this trial, Michael Gabor, 52, of Parma, who formerly worked in then-Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo's office, is accused of bribery and conspiracy.

Prosecutors have described Gabor as a sort of a "bag man" for Dimora, acting as a go-between for delivery of cash, goods and services from contractors and businessmen.

Both maintain their innocence.

  • When asked about the corruption probe at one point, Dimora told reporters "I'm not an angel, but I'm no crook. I'm not doing anything different than any other public official does."

Pundits have likened the Cuyahoga County corruption probe and Dimora's alleged role to that of William Magear "Boss" Tweed, convicted in 1873 in New York's Tammany Hall corruption case.

  • Dimora had his first job in Bedford Heights with the city's sanitation department, working as a trash collector. He eventually ran and won a seat on city council, serving five consecutive two-year terms.

In 1981, he began serving as the city's mayor, a position he held for 17 years. In 1998, he was first elected Cuyahoga County Commissioner, a position he held until voters abolished the commissioner form of government in the county in 2010.

In 2000, the City of Bedford Heights renamed its community center the Jimmy Dimora Community Center.

Dimora ran the county Democratic Party like a well-oiled machine, electing and re-electing Democrats over and over.

In the 35 years Dimora was in the public eye, prosecutors said his rise in power coincided with bigger and better backroom deals, pay-to-play government contracts and a "you-wash-my-back-I'll-wash-yours" mentality.

In many of the indictments against other defendants, as well as indictments against Dimora himself, prosecutors detail Dimora as a foul-mouthed bully, who peppered his speech constantly with four-letter words.

He would often talk about women in sexual terms. Friends and other Democratic officeholders wrote off his "Italion Stallion" persona as "That's just Jimmy being Jimmy."

Prosecutors allege, among at least 100 other acts, that he received tens of thousands of dollars in home improvements at his Independence home for free, received free trips to Las Vegas, had paid-for prostitutes, traded a job for sex in at least one case and bartered away government contracts for cash or other personal considerations.       

  • The first charges in the overall probe came down on June 12, 2009, and were aimed at four people -- J. Kevin Kelley, Kevin F. Payne, Daniel P. Gallgher and Brian Schuman. The four men all had ties to Dimora and Russo.

As more charges appeared, coded indictments referred to Public Official One and Public Official Two, quickly recognized as Dimora and Russo, respectively.

On Sept. 9, 2010, Russo, 62, of Bratenahl, was charged and resigned the same day. He pleaded guilty a week later and was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in prison. He has since made a plea deal with prosecutors and is expected to be the main witness against Dimora.

Russo and Dimora were a tag-team who wielded enormous political power. They would often arrive at political events or fundraisers together. Getting an endorsement from one or both was a "make or break" for a candidate. 

  • Dimora was first charged in a 139-page indictment on Sept. 15, 2010. That morning, at 6:50 a.m., FBI agents arrested Dimora at his home, leading him away in shackles.

Dimora pleaded "not guilty" and was released on $50,000 bond. This trial is about those charges, which include receiving bribes and kickbacks, racketeering, trips, home improvements both inside and outside his Independence home, appliances, trips, meals, entertainment, jewelry, hotel rooms and prostitutes.

For that, he would help award contractors and business associates with county contracts, loans, jobs, pay raises and favorable treatment in court cases.

If convicted on those charges, Dimora faces up to 60 years in prison and $1.25 million in restitution.

  • On Oct. 21, 2011, a second indictment was unsealed, charging Dimora with additional counts, as well as counts against Michael Forlani, 51, of Gates Mills, ex-president of the former Doan Pyramid Electric.

In that 91-page indictment, Dimora was additionally charged with conspiracy, bribery and fraud in schemes designed to enrich himself or his friends.

Forlani was charged with operating his business as a continuing criminal enterprise. Prosecutors say Forlani rewarded Dimora with meals and gifts, including a $12,578 outdoor television system, according to the indictment.

For now, Dimora and Forlani will be facing a separate trial on the second indictment sometime after Dimora's first trial is completed.

Dimora was originally represented by Cleveland attorney Richard Lillie and is now represented by Akron-based attorneys William Whitaker and his daughter, Andrea Whitaker.

WKYC-TV

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