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I-Team: County Scandal Linked to Ameritrust Complex

CLEVELAND — An indictment handed up by a federal grand jury Thursday directly links the Cuyahoga County corruption scandal to the old Ameritrust complex.

It is a link the FOX 8 I-Team first made in 2007 when it broke the story of an FBI probe of Cuyahoga County government.

Nine months later, in July 2008, the FBI’s investigation exploded into the open with a series of raids that included the homes and offices of former County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora and Auditor Frank Russo.

In Thursday’s indictment, prosecutors charge attorney Anthony O. Calabrese III in a 20-count indictment that includes a charge of tampering with a witness.

They indicate that he tried to influence former county employee J. Kevin Kelley to lobby Dimora to have the county purchase the Ameritrust complex–indicating that Kelley would receive a “things of value, including cash.” In other words, a bribe, if he helped make the deal a reality.

The county did purchase the building with the idea to try and make it the new home of county government.

It was advised on the deal by the Staubach Company, but the county never did move forward with the plan to move its headquarters to the complex.

It has had difficulty trying to sell the property in the face of a difficult real estate market.

A Plain Dealer editorial referred to the complex as a “white elephant.”

Shortly after the July 2008 raids, according to the indictment, Calabrese met with Kelley to discuss “issues related to the County Corruption Investigation …”

The indictment does not directly say that the two were trying to get their stories straight.

Kelley has pled guilty in the scandal and is cooperating with prosecutors.