I-Team confronts former city hall executive now facing charges as accused con artist

CLEVELAND- The FOX 8 I -Team has uncovered the story behind how a former Cleveland City Hall executive has become a suspected con artist facing felony charges for trying to steal taxpayer dollars.

Thursday morning, Nicole Junior went before a judge to begin facing the charges, and as she got out of jail on bond, she found an I-Team camera waiting for her. She refused to answer repeated questions and kept referring us to her attorney.

Cuyahoga County prosecutors say, in March, the city hired Junior to head the Cleveland Police Commission, a group helping to oversee reform of the city police department. But investigators say they found Junior turned in fake moving expenses after she got hired.

Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Meyer said, "She concocted and forged false receipts and false invoices." Meyer said Junior tried to collect $7,200 of tax money.

Through a records request, the I-Team obtained copies of the invoices and an email sent from Junior to the city. The email says, in part “…it’s critical that I receive reimbursement as soon as possible.” But prosecutors say Junior never even moved all of her stuff from a home in New York.

Meyer added, "When police investigated the case, they discovered that Ms. Junior had rented herself a fully furnished Airbnb apartment here in the city of Cleveland."

The I -Team has learned the investigation began at Cleveland City Hall. Workers in the finance department noticed something wasn't quite right. They had started taking a hard look at the records. Investigators say they found what was going on just in time. An expense check had already been cut and put into an envelope, and it was ready to be sent to Nicole Junior.

Defense attorney, Ian Friedman, spoke for Junior in court. Friedman entered a plea of not guilty. Later, he told the I-Team, "I mean, at this time, everything's brand new. It was our first day in court. She entered a plea of not guilty to it. We'll get the evidence from the state of Ohio, evaluate, and go from there."

Prosecutors say Junior resigned her job as head of the commission after questions about the moving expenses. If convicted, she could face up to 16 years in prison. Junior would have earned $95,000 a year.