November 8, 2010
Sewer Attorney Suspended
The web page of the Ohio Supreme Court reports today the interim suspension of an attorney as a result of a felony conviction. Cleveland.com reported that the attorney had served as counsel to the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and pled guilty to bribery and tax offenses:
...[the attorney] admitted accepting more than $680,000 in bribes from the primary contractor on the district's massive Mill Creek Tunnel sewer project. He also admitted diverting nearly $167,000 in checks payable to the sewer district, using a fraudulent deposit stamp, to accounts [he] controlled.
He faces a likely prison sentence of five years and 10 months to seven years and three months.
The sentencing range, based on federal guidelines, assumes [he] fully cooperates with federal prosecutors in their pursuit of other potential defendants. Even then, U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster will have final say on the length of [his] prison term. Polster also is expected to order Schatz to pay restitution to the sewer district.
As part of his agreement with prosecutors, [he] also pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns from 2003 to 2007. He will have to cooperate with the IRS in determining back taxes owed.
The sewer district oversees sewage and water quality for more than 1 million people in Cleveland and 62 suburbs in Cuyahoga and Summit counties.
The charges against [the attorney] do not name the contractor paying the bribes, but identifies the person as being the president of a Cleveland company belonging to a joint venture. KMM&K was the joint venture hired to construct the bulk of the 3-mile long sewer tunnel at Mill Creek, which runs under Cleveland, Garfield Heights and Cuyahoga Heights.
The joint venture is made up of Kassouf Co., Mole Constructors, Murray Hill Construction and Kenny Construction. Calls were made to each company seeking comment. Only Kenny responded. A spokesman said in an e-mailed response that the Illinois-based company had no knowledge of any alleged improprieties and has contacted the federal prosecutor handling the case and pledged it's cooperation.
The scheme by [the attorney] to collect the bribes involved billing a client for legal services that were never performed and then having the client bill that amount to the president of the only Cleveland-based company that's part of KMM&K, prosecutors said. The description of the contractor matches Robert Kassouf of Kassouf Co.
The client who served as the go-between for the bribes is not identified in the charges other than to say it's a Cleveland-based company that provided the joint venture with a parking lot, machine rental and other things. Julius Ciacci, executive director of the sewer district, identified the client as Harvard Refuse Inc.
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