Convicted county corruption defendant now disbarred

11:35 AM, Sep 21, 2011   |    comments
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COLUMBUS -- The Ohio Supreme Court, in a 7-0 decision, has permanently disbarred one of the defendants in the Cuyahoga County corruption probe.

On Oct. 2, 2009, attorney Bruce A. Zaccagnini, 50, of North Royalton, admitted bribing then-Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo and his then-aide, Santina "Sandy" Klimkowski with $1.3 million to get $21 million in inflated appraisal contracts for V.A.S. Enterprises, a company Zaccagnini helped run.

He was sentenced Feb. 2, 2010, to five years in prison and ordered to pay $3.2 million in restitution. To date, he has paid $590,702, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

He was disbarred for "professional misconduct arising from his involvement in a conspiracy with his law partners and others through which they unlawfully obtained lucrative contracts to provide appraisals of commercial real estate for the Cuyahoga County Auditor's Office."

He was a member of the former firm of Armstrong, Mitchell, Damiani and Zaccagnini.

Attorney Timothy Armstrong pleaded guilty Sept. 29, 2009, and was sentenced Feb. 3, 2010, to 42 months in prison. He has repaid his entire $1,573,645 court-ordered restitution.

Attorney William Mitchell was convicted after a trial in April, 2011, and sentenced June 13, 2011, to just over eight years in prison, and ordered to pay $1,120,000 in restitution. To date, he has paid $200, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

Attorney Louis Damiani was a longtime Russo ally and a close friend of Klimkowski. Court records and testimony show Damiani engineered the scheme before he died in 2006.

Zaccagnini, whose license has been under an interim suspension since his 2010 conviction in federal court on a felony count of conspiracy, is currently serving his time at the Morgantown Federal Correctional Facility.

The Ohio Supreme Court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that, between 1998 and 2008, Zaccagnini and others obtained commercial property appraisal contracts totaling more than $21 million from the Cuyahoga County Auditor.

The Court "affirmed the board's conclusions that Zaccagnini's conduct violated the state attorney discipline rules that prohibit a lawyer from engaging in criminal conduct involving moral turpitude; conduct involving fraud, deceit, dishonesty or misrepresentation; conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; and conduct that adversely reflects on a lawyer's fitness to practice law."

In adopting the board's recommended sanction of permanent disbarment, the Court noted that Zaccagnini's unethical conduct had "lasted approximately ten years, victimized every taxpayer in Cuyahoga County and resulted in a restitution order of $3,215,845."

The Court agreed with the board's determination that Zaccagnini had engaged in a "widespread pattern of criminal misconduct and corruption that resulted in great harm to the residents of Cuyahoga County and all county government."


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