Blog: Cuyahoga County corruption in court again

2:18 PM, Mar 31, 2013   |    comments
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Once again, U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi has scheduled the sentencing of Cuyahoga County corruption defendant Michael Forlani. This time, it's set for Monday, April 1.

That's no April Fool's joke and I say "once again" because his sentencing has been rescheduled three times since December and hearings were held in January and February.

Forlani, 56, of Gates Mills, is the former owner of Doan Pyramid Electric, Cleveland's largest electrical contractor. Forlani pleaded guilty before Lioi on Aug. 30, 2012 to bribery-related charges. He had been scheduled to go to trial in October.

To date, 60 people have been convicted from a probe that went public July 28, 2008 when nearly 200 FBI and IRS agents raided the offices and businesses of Cuyahoga County officials and business leaders.

Like the Energizer bunny (Easter pun intended), this probe just keeps going and going. How long? Some defendants who either pleaded guilty or went to trial and were found guilty have already been to prison and served their sentences.

An example? Former Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Bridget McCafferty, found guilty of 10 counts of lying to the FBI, has served her 14-month sentence already and is free.

And before even Forlani and others have been sentenced, two of the probe's prime targets who are already in federal prison -- Jimmy Dimora and Frank Russo -- are back in the news.  

Saturday morning, former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora filed an appeal of his March 9, 2012 conviction on 32 charges, saying he didn't receive a fair trial because, among other things, evidence he wanted to present wasn't allowed.

Dimora, of Independence, is already in a West Virginia federal prison serving his 28-year sentence.

Since Nov. 16, Russo, the former Cuyahoga County auditor, last of Mayfield Heights, has been in a federal prison in Loretto, Pa., serving his 22-year prison but it's almost guaranteed from what we're hearing that he will ask for a sentence reduction for all of his cooperation in testifying against other defendants.

So what we have here are the two main players in the still-ongoing Cuyahoga County corruption probe in prison. Dimora, who maintaned his innocence and went to trial, wants a new trial.

Russo, who pleaded guilty soon after being charged and cooperated with federal officials, wants a shorter sentence.

Former Cuyahoga County Judge Steven Terry, also found guilty in the probe, lost his appeal and remains in federal prison.

John Carroll, 66, a former MetroHealth Medical Center president sentenced to nine years in prison, didn't get the reduced sentence he asked for from Lioi.

Why? He told Lioi that he wanted a shorter sentence because he was a globe-trotting, out-of-control sex addict. Lioi said he never mentioned a sex addiction until after he pleaded guilty and was sentenced so no, his sentence stands.

Carroll is now in Hazelton federal prison in West Virginia.

Still with me? Are you wondering who can be left? You'd be surprised.

In addition to Forlani, who faces up to eight years in prison, there are others who made plea deals with with federal prosecutors and have yet to be sentenced.

Most notably, there is J. Kevin Kelley, Steve Pumper, Sandy Klimkowski, Brian Schuman and Anthony Sinagra. But their time is coming soon as sealed pre-sentence reports have been filed with the U.S. District Clerk of Courts.

Kelley, 43, of Parma, a former member of the Parma School Boad and a former Cuyahoga County employee who relocated with his entire family to Florida's Gulf Coast, is diagnosed as diabetic and suffers from anxiety, depression and a bipolar disorder.

Kelley, the very first person charged in the probe, testified at Dimora's trial and made an appearance at one of Forlani's sentencing hearings.

Pumper, a former executive at DAS Construction, pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges in 2009 and faces at least six years in prison. He testified at Dimora's trial. Remember that he was the guy that threw his computer hard drive into Lake Erie so the feds couldn't get hold of it.

Klimkowski, a former Maple Heights school board president and top aide to Russo, faces four to five years in prison. Schuman, the co-executive director at Alternatives Agency (a Cleveland halfway house) faces four to 10 months in prison or house arrest.

Sinagra, the former Lakewood mayor who then had his own consulting business, faces up to three years in prison.

A couple of the other defendants will be released from federal prison this year and one -- Bill Neiheiser -- is already in a halfway house program before his pending sentence completion in August.

Neiheiser, 64, of Gates Mills, was sentenced in July, 2011 to 37 months in prison. He pleaded guilty in 2010 to four charges related to the Cuyahoga County corruption investigation.

We'll see what happens next.


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