AKRON -- Former Cuyahoga County engineer's chief of staff Daniel Gallagher took the witness stand late Monday and gave testiimony about bribes he took and a $2,000 bribe he said he gave to then-Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora.
Gallagher already pleaded guilty to eight charges, including aiding and abetting bribery, conspiracy, bribery, destroying evidence and filing false tax returns.
He made a plea deal with federal prosecutors to testify against Dimora and other probe defendants, including Samir Mohammad, who is to be tried here in federal court later this year.
"It's my understanding that I will serve time...best-case scenario is that I will serve 57 months...and I must pay $87,000 in restitution," Gallagher said. He already has paid his back taxes to the IRS.
On the stand starting at 3:50 p.m., Gallagher first quickly and bluntly began detailing how he got $20,000 from Mohammad and then gave it to the engineer's office retired chief of staff Kevin Payne to use to influence Dimora to hire Mohammad as the deputy county administrator.
Gallagher said the money was to pay for Dimora, Frank Russo Steve Pumper, attorney Anthony Calabrese Jr, Robert Rybak and J. Kevin Kelley to go on a gambling trip to Casino Windsor in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Gallagher said he also went on the trip "to make sure Payne was using the cash I gave him for hotel and entertainment purposes...for Dimora and the others."
Gallagher, who started The Eagle Group consulting firm after he retired from the engineer's office in 2002, said he was hired by K&D Development for $3,250 a month but said he had to give one third of it in cash to Payne because Payne felt he needed those monies to use to influence the commissioners to keep the engineer's office in the Stonebridge Center LLC location on the West Bank of the Flats.
Stonebridge was built by K&D.
Gallagher's plea agreement shows that The Eagle Group, where Gallagher was the sole employee, was merely a vehicle to hold and pass along bribes to public officials.
Gallagher said Payne had asked him for $20,000 to use to help influence Dimora and entertain him. At the time, Mohammad was was working for then-Cuyahoga County Recorder Pat O'Malley. Gallagher said he then got the $20,000 from Mohammad.
Gallagher testified that he gave Payne an envelope with 20 $100 bills. Payne, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to multiple counts of bribery, died of cancer before he could testify.
While all the others took Payne-provided limousines up to Windsor, Gallagher said he rode up tp Windsor for the 2003 trip with Payne driving, but they stopped twice -- once to pick up a woman in the Cleveland area and a second time in a parking lot in Toledo to pick up another woman.
Gallagher described the first woman as a short, 35-year-old blonde and the woman in Toledo as a tall, younger, black woman named Egypt.
He said all four of them arrived at Casino Windsor and saw Dimora, Kelley, Pumper, Rybak, Russo and Calabrese already at the gaming tables.
Gallagher said Payne introduced Egypt to Dimora and Dimora immediately left the gaming table and took Egypt up to his room.
Later after dinner that night, Gallagher said Payne handed him $2,000 of the $20,000 to give to Dimora privately.
Gallagher said he got Dimora alone after the dinner and told him "This is for you to keep Samir Mohammad in mind for court administrator." Gallagher said Dimora took the cash and put it in his pocket.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Antoinette Bacon asked Gallagher why he only gave money to Dimora, since all three commissioners would decide on the administrator appointment?
Gallagher replied, "Mr. Dimora would take the cash."
That first night at Casino Windsor, while all the men were eating dinner, the two women came to their table but didn't eat, telling the men what room they would be in if any of the men "wanted to come up and avail themselves of their services."
Once back in Cleveland, Gallagher talked to Mohammad. "I told Samir his money was well spent."
Later, when it looked like Mohammad wouldn't get the administrator's job, Russo then offered to hire Samir as his chief of staff, Gallagher testified.
When the FBI went public with its corruption probe on July 28, 2008, making simultaneous raids on multiple county offices and businesses, soon after Gallagher said he and Mohammad hit his computer and hard drive with a sledgehammer to destroy the records it contained, for fear of being caught with evidence of bribery.
Gallagher testified that he will never forget the day when two FBI agents -- Michael Massie and Christine Oliver -- came to his home.
"On Oct. 21, 2008, two agents came to my home and wanted to talk to me. I didn't talk to them but called an attorney. Then I decided to cooperate and gave them a proffer," Gallagher testified.
A proffer is a legal term which means to offer to provide evidence.
Does he regret his actions?
"It has had a tremendous effect on me personally, on my family, friends...I am ashamed of what I've done....I wake up every day with a fear of the unknown and I do try and function.... When I pled guilty, part of my agreement was that I wouldn't be sentenced until all the cases are disposed of...it's kind of like, I have a probation officer I have to report to, I have to report to the court...it has been 31 months since I pled and I didn't think I'd be out here this long," Gallagher said.
Gallagher also said he wore a wire for the FBI twice but did not say who he was talking to either time.
He was asked why he was helping Mohammad in the first place? Were they friends? He said, "Samir was helping me with another individual, holding off another individual from getting to me...."
Gallagher admitted that Mohammad knew Gallagher had lied on his county job application that he had graduated from college and Mohammad was keeping another unnamed person from taking that information to county officials.
Gallagher also testified that he received cash bribes from Tony Ma's Broma Information Technologies, then gave part of the money to Payne and part to Mohammad.
"I was then told that Payne gave part of his money to Russo," Gallagher testified.
Ma, 75, of Moreland Hills, pleaded guilty in federal court on Aug. 2, 2010 to bribing county officials in return for two contracts.
His company received a document-imaging contract from a job headed by Kelley, and a part of a payroll-related subcontract of a computer mapping pact.
In return, Ma promised about $175,000 in kickbacks to county employees.
Ma suffered a stroke and slipped into a coma on Nov. 4, 2010, and died Nov. 5, 2010, in Hillcrest Hospital.