AKRON, Ohio — Former Cuyahoga County contractor Ferris Kleem was sentenced on Friday to spend three years in prison for his admitted bribery of county officials including former County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora.
Kleem, 54, earlier admitted to giving gifts, including a refrigerator, a television set, dinners and cash to Dimora.
He also paid for a lavish trip for Dimora and others to Las Vegas that Federal Judge John Adams on Friday called “a key scheme … in the prosecution of Dimora.”
Kleem’s attorney told the court that he had cooperated with the government from the time he was first questioned by the FBI.
Prosecutors say through their interviews of Kleem they learned about bribes and other schemes they knew nothing about before he told them.
“I want the court to know that I do realize what I have done and I apologize for my conduct and accept full responsibility,” Kleem told the court.
“I know I have hurt … my employees, most of all my family, my children. Again, I want you to know that I do accept full responsibility,” he continued.
Prosecutors asked Judge Adams to sentence Kleem to 24 months in prison, but the judge said he wanted to send a harsh message instead to other contractors who might consider bribing public officials.
“Suffice it to say his conduct, his role is a big one, at the very top of the conspiracy … involving public corruption in Cuyahoga County,” said Adams.
“Two short years in prison is not a long enough time given the scope of the schemes and scams,” the judge continued.
Adams said he wanted to send a message with his sentence, that is: “For any other individual thinking of doing this there will be a consequence.”
Adams scolded Kleem saying it is “hard to quantify the harm that is done” and “it “undermines our democracy.”
The evidence against Kleem included FBI Wiretaps in which Kleem was overheard discussing the plans for the Las Vegas Trip and asking Dimora to intervene on his behalf on county projects.
Adams said Kleem’s crimes were intended to give him access to government officials that would benefit his company on multimillion dollar contracts.
“I am sure there were others out there bidding for jobs who have to ask themselves, were they unsuccessful because of Mr. Kleem?” said Adams.
He said he was disappointed in those who had written the court in support of Kleem who was described in letters as “very generous and very kind.”
“Some of those individuals do not understand the seriousness (of what he did),” said the judge, who added the government wiretaps “paint a picture of a much different individual.”
Adams also imposed a $250,000 fine which he intended to be very high, saying Kleem’s motivation was “monetary in nature.”
The judge said he wanted to show others who might want to bribe government officials “they will pay a financial consequence.”
“That’s what this is all about, greed and more,” said Adams.
Adams also ordered $24,000 in restitution to be paid to Cuyahoga County.
Kleem was permitted to self report to prison.
He is expected to serve his sentence at the Morgantown Prison in West Virginia.