CLEVELAND — Former Cleveland Councilman Basheer Jones, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor instead of re-election last year, is a subject in a FBI investigation, 3News has learned.
A subpoena, issued by a federal grand jury, was sent weeks ago to City Hall seeking records on a number of nonprofits, organizations and individuals with ties to Jones, according to sources familiar with the contents of the subpoena.
3News asked for a copy of the subpoena on Tuesday. The city has acknowledged having the subpoena and said Thursday it is still reviewing the request.
Among the entities named in the subpoena, sources tell 3News, is Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services (NEON), a financially struggling nonprofit on the city's east side that Jones championed while on council. (UPDATE: The city released the subpoena Friday morning. It confirms much of 3News' reporting but does not mention NEON. Sources tell 3News NEON appeared on another subpoena, which has not been released.)
Council voted last year to give $2 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to NEON. (The spokeswoman for the nonprofit at the time was Ebony Webster, who was also Jones’ campaign spokeswoman. Webster was also a press secretary for short time for Congresswoman Shontel Brown.)
The city has not yet released any ARPA funds to NEON, which has several major debts. According to records obtained by 3News, it owed Cleveland Public Power more than $118,000 as of December 2021.
The subpoena seeks any records on a woman named Mecca East, a health advocate who worked with the Cleveland Salaam Clinic. In the past, Jones described East in a media interview as his wife and mother to his children. East also was paid during his campaign for “administrative services,” according to campaign records.
The subpoena also asked for any documents related to King Management, a development consultant. It was paid for branding services during Jones’ mayoral campaign, according to campaign records. Other public records link an employee of that company, Sinera McCoy, to a Cleveland Heights address where Jones had once lived.
Sources tell 3News, the subpoena also seeks records on the Famicos Foundation, a nonprofit that works on redevelopment projects on the city’s east side; and The Real Black Friday, an organization that promotes small minority businesses.
Numerous attempts were made Thursday night to reach Jones for comment but were unsuccessful. Calls to cell phones and emails were not returned. Also, others close to him were alerted to the issue.
Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin released the following statement on Friday afternoon:
"I am aware of an FBI grand jury subpoena sent to the City of Cleveland concerning agencies, organizations and individuals who are associated with former member of City Council Basheer Jones. The request is primarily for Community Development Block Grant information that is handled by the administration. Council will, of course, provide any information or documents requested by the FBI."
This story will be updated as people respond and Cleveland City Hall releases more public records.
This story was updated to clarify Webster's time as press secretary for Brown.