AKRON --Twinsburg-basedFinancial Network of America's money manager Charles Randazzo, whoadmitted bribing then-Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora and Frank Russo with fake palm trees, a Tiki hut and a Tiki bar,and food, took the stand late Monday afternoon.
Randazzo, 63, of Solon, already pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy in April, 2010 and signed a plea agreement with prosecutors.
He admitted he provided gifts toJimmy Dimora andthen-Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo in exchange for their help getting county business for his company, Financial Network of America.
Between 2004 and 2008, he gave food, giftsand wine to Dimoraand his friends, prosecutors said.
Randazzo testified that, in 2008, he gave both Russo and Dimora the following at Christmas: 1 beef tenderloin, 10 pork chops, two bags of shrimp, 4 lamb racks, 10 pounds of crab legs, a magnum of Moet champagne, a bottle of Ruffino Chianti and three other bottles of wine.
Randazzo was charged with bribery and conspiracy. Randazzo faces a possible prison sentence of 8-14 months, assuming he fully cooperates with prosecutors by testifying.
In addition, he gave both mencashier's checks for $1,079 each in 2004 to buy fake palm trees for their backyards. Dimora chose to instead to use his money to purchase a Tiki bar for his back yard, according to Randazzo.
The bar is in his resort-like canopied patio at his home.
"They saw the fake palm tree up at Kelley's Island and liked it and I thought it would be fun to get them for Jim and Frank," Randazzo testified.
Dimora's attorney Andrea Whitaker asked if giving "Jim and Frank the palm trees, that it would get people talking when they saw them at their houses and your name would be mentioned, right?"
Randazzo agreed. Dimora and Russo saw the palm tree at Randazzo's summer home on Kelley's Island.
Randazzo wanted their help in getting his company on the list of businesses that provide financial services to public employees. He is the majority owner of the Twinsburg-based money management firm, which helps county employees invest their deferred compensation.
Deferred compensation is similar to a 401(k) retirement plan in that money is taken out of an employee's pay before taxes and invested. In 2004, the county agreedto add Financial Network of America to the list, according to the charges.
The company ran into legal problems the following year and its business with the county was suspended, only to be reinstated a year later.
According to Randazzo, Dimora also introduced Randazzo to other public officials, like City of Beachwood Mayor Merle Gorden and Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District Executive Director Julius Ciaccia, who might be able to provide contracts to Randazzo's company, prosecutors said.
Gorden did not have Randazzo's company provide financial services for the city and Ciaccia did not have Randazzo's company provide services to NEORSD.
Russo helped Randazzo get started with the county, according to prosecutors. Russo introduced Randazzo to Steve Letski,a county employee with connections to the payroll department.
Randazzo did other things to curry favor with Dimora, prosecutors said.
He also gave a relative of Dimora's club seats to a 2008 Cleveland Cavaliers game, prosecutors said.