Investigator: Anti-poverty boss charged with bribery and fraud

CLEVELAND -- The woman squarely at the front and center of a WKYC Channel 3 investigation for nearly seven years has been indicted by federal authorities.

69-year-old Jackie Middleton, the CEO of the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland or GEOGC, which largely oversees the county's Head Start program, has been charged with charged with accepting more than $24,000 in cash, home renovations and other things of value in exchange for steering work to specific contractors in the area.

ORIGINAL STORY: Former head of agency charged with fraud, conspiracy

Federal prosecutors says from 2008 through August 7, 2012, Middleton used her official position to enrich herself by soliciting and accepting gifts, payments and other things of value from contractors who did business with CEOGC. These gifts and payments were made in exchange for favorable action from Middleton for the payors and their companies, according to the information.

THE INVESTIGATOR: Head Start agency accused of double billing, more

"The FBI has the responsibility of protecting the public by aggressively pursuing and bringing to justice those who place the community at risk," said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Cleveland office in a written release. "Instead of serving the public, she served herself and violated the trust of those she was supposed to serve."

RELATED: Local Head Start CEO resigns during federal probe

In a separate case, The Investigator Tom Meyer has raised questions about Middleton's conduct. In 2011, leaders of the GEOGC wildly misspending federal grant money on travel junkets to Las Vegas, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington D.C.

Middleton alone spent $400 worth of merchandise and clothing at Saks Fifth Avenue on the agency's credit card.

January of 2012, the agency suffered another black-eye, when it was cited by the U-S Department of Health and Senior Services for five violations.

Wednesday's indictment includes charges of criminal information with two counts of honest services fraud, one count of bribery in federally funded programs and one count of Hobbs Act Conspiracy.

"We will continue to prosecute cases where the public's trust is violated with bribes and kickbacks," said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

A court date was not immediately announced.

Follow The Investigator Tom Meyer on Twitter: @TomMeyerWKYC


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