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Dimora witness from Payne: "These guys are bleeding me dry"

4:43 PM, Jan 31, 2012   |    comments
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AKRON -- Before star witness J. Kevin Kelley took ill late Tuesday morning, he testified that he knew what he was doing was illegal.

Kelley is a former Cuyahoga County employee in then-Engineer Bob Klaiber's office. Kelley, 42, now living in Florida, already pleaded guilty to 11 charges, including conspiracy, bribery, tax evasion and mail fraud and faces five years and 10 months in prison.

He and former Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo are the two star witnesses for federal prosecutors in the corruption trial of former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora and former Cuyahoga County Auditor's office employee Michael Gabor.

Both Dimora and Gabor maintain their innocence. Dimora is facing 31 charges in this trial, including bribery, taking kickbacks and conspiracy.

Kelley testified early Tuesday that he received a call on April 9, 2008, from Brian Schuman, who at that time was the co-director of Alternatives Agency, a halfway house on East 55th Street in Cleveland that received part of its funding from Cuyahoga County.

Kelley said Schuman tells him that, now that Kelley is back from the April 6-8, 2008 trip to Las Vegas with then-Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora; Russo; Russo's domestic partner Michael Calabrese; Blaze Construction owner Ferris Kleem; D-A-S Construction owner Steve Pumper; and Russo employee Michael Gabor, Schuman says he has the "rest of your money."

Schuman and Kelley both had previously testified that Kelley was a paid consultant for Alternatives and that for several months in 2008, Kelley was paid an additional $2,000 a month.

It was said at Alternatives at the time that the extra money was for extra work Kelley had performed but both Schuman and Kelley testified that the extra money was to pay for the Las Vegas trip.

"It was my normal consulting fee plus an extra $2,000 for the Las Vegas trip..." Kelley testified.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Antoinette Bacon asked Kelley if he told anyone else in the county government what was going on and Kelley said that "I actually went to great lengths to keep that quiet...because it's illegal..."

Kelley also testified about Cuyahoga County employees not working during regular work hours but partying at Dimora's.

Kelley said the pool parties at Dimora's started at noon two or three times a week on weekdays and would go all day and until 8 p.m. or so at night.

Bacon asked Kelley if he or any other county employee complained about having to spend money on favors for Dimora or Russo.

Kelley testified that Kevin Payne, the former chief of staff at the engineer's office who paid for prostitutes and limousine services then given free to Dimora and Russo, complained to him that the limos and other stuff was costing a lot.

"He said these guys are bleeding me dry...and then I said to him that, at any other normal place, we wouldn't be able to get away with the kind of stuff we are getting away with them there..." Kelley said, saying that the "them" referred to Dimora and Russo being in positions of power in Cuyahoga County government.

Regarding the April, 2008 Las Vegas trip, Kelley said the only one who was a bit hesitant about the timing of going to Vegas was Dimora but only for a specific reason.

"It was just Commissioner Dimora who didn't want us there during (Parma Mayor) Dean DePiero's bachelor party because he didn't want all of them to know what we were up to..." Kelley said.

DePiero's party was scheduled for April 20, 2008 in Las Vegas so Dimora's trip was scheduled for early April. At the time, Dimora and Russo expected Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason to attend DePiero's party, as the two were close friends and political allies.

Kelley even testified Monday that he was gotten out of the race by Dimora and Russo for mayor in Parma to give DePiero an open field in the Democratic primary.

Kelley testified that he and Dimora were on the phone before the Las Vegas trip talking about Russo's hiring practices.

"...his payroll might get a little heavier at the auditor's office....in the A-Team, it was known that he would take money for jobs" Kelley testified.

"(Russo) had bought a mansion in the Gates Mills area.... and put in a pool with a pool house and spent $200,000 on the pool...and redid the whole inside of the house..."

Kelley said Dimora said to him in the same phone call that Russo and his noticeable spending of money that  "he's going to get us all in the jackpot..." referring to Russo spending money lavishly and publicly.

Kelley said there were lots of social events for "The A-Team," a nickname that the group of Dimora, Kelley, Russo, Rob Rybak, Gabor, Pumper, and two others. Kelley said these men were the regulars for dinners and poker games and gambling junkets.

Once he first arrived in Las Vegas, Kelley was asked if he heard anything about "Dimora and prostitutes?" Bacon said.

Kelley replied that "I heard discussions about that...Ferris was in the process of setting up a girl to service Jimmy..."

Kelley testified that "...he said she was good, she talked a lot but she was good..."

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