County corruption: Kleem gets 3 years in prison for bribery

2:32 PM, Jan 11, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Contractor Ferris Kleem was sentenced to three years in prison, fined $250,000 and ordered to pay $24,000 in restitution to Cuyahoga County after previously pleading guilty to one count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, law enforcement officials said.

Kleem, 52, of Berea, and the former owner of Blaze Construction and other companies, engaged in a conspiracy between 2006 through July 28, 2008 in which Kleem provided things of value to then-Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, then-County Auditor Frank Russo and then-county employee J. Kevin Kelley in return for those men performing acts and promising to perform official acts to benefit Kleem and his interests, according to court documents.

Previously, Kleem had asked to be sent to the federal prison in Morgantown, West Virginia, where most of the other corruption defendants were sent.

In 2006, Kleem asked Dimora and Russo to assist him in obtaining a county grant to build a pedestrian bridge at Coe Lake in Berea.

County commissioners eventually voted to award a $150,000 grant to the city of Berea for the project, according to court documents.

In 2008, Kleem asked Dimora and Russo to assist his brother with a smoking violation at his restaurant. Dimora made phone calls inquiring about the violation, according to court documents. In 2008, Kleem helped arrange a trip to Las Vegas for Dimora, Russo, Kelley and others. Kleem gave Dimora and Russo $6,000 in cash each -- $1,000 to cover the cost of airfare and $5,000 for gambling.

The money was enough to ensure that Dimora and Russo gambled enough to be "comped" suites at the Mirage, as Kleem had arranged, according to court documents.

While in Las Vegas, Kleem gave Dimora approximately $3,500 in gaming chips. He also hired a prostitute, at Dimora's request, for $1,000 and escorted the prostitute to Dimora's suite, according to court documents.

While in Las Vegas, Kleem and Dimora discussed details of bids for work on the county's Juvenile Justice Center project, work for which Kleem was bidding.

They also discussed having a specific inspector assigned to the Snow Road resurfacing project. The inspector was eventually assigned to the job, as a result of Kelley's efforts and Dimora's influence, according to court documents.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Antoinette T. Bacon, Ann C. Rowland and Nancy L. Kelley following an investigation by the FBI and IRS - Criminal Investigation.


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