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Cleveland-area political powerbroker guilty of corruption

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A federal jury on Friday found Cleveland-area political powerbroker Jimmy Dimora guilty of corruption charges, including bribery and racketeering, in a case that exposed a web of political patronage and influence-peddling.

The colorful former Cuyahoga County commissioner was accused of running a criminal enterprise out of his office, arranging contracts and jobs in return for bribes, including a Las Vegas trip, meals at expensive restaurants and prostitutes, prosecutors said.

Dimora, 56, was found guilty by an Akron, Ohio jury of 33 of 34 counts -- he was acquitted on a mail-fraud count. Also convicted was Dimora's co-defendant, Michael Gabor, 52, on seven counts including racketeering and obstruction of justice.

The verdicts are part of an investigation into corruption in Ohio's largest county that led to more than 50 convictions involving county officials and contractors.

From his position as county commissioner prosecutors said Dimora for years wielded the power to approve contracts with the city and even jobs at city agencies.

Dimora was accused of taking more than $166,000 worth of bribes in the form of cash, home improvements and other perks. The bribes were paid in exchange for Dimora's efforts to steer contracts to allies, get jobs and raises for associates, intercede with judges on pending cases, and lobby for grants and loans, according to federal prosecutors.

The trial included testimony from more than 60 witnesses, including former Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo, who pleaded guilty to his own role in the conspiracy.

Dimora faces decades in prison and loss of assets, including his home.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation first raided Dimora's office and home in 2008. He was indicted in October 2011.

(Reporting By Kim Palmer; Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune)

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