Sentencing Under Way in Dimora-Related Case

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AKRON, Ohio - Sentencing is under way for former Doan Pyramid President Michael Forlani who earlier pleaded guilty to thirteen charges including bribery and extortion in connection with the FBI's far reaching investigation into public corruption in Cuyahoga County.

Forlani admits having thousands of dollars of work performed at the Independence Home of former County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora.

Dimora was to have gone on trial along with Forlani on their related charges, but the government dropped him from the case after he was convicted last year of more than 30 corruption related charges of his own.

Government prosecutors started calling witnesses on Tuesday that included an FBI Special Agent who detailed the value of not only the work Forlani had done at Dimora's home, but also included discounts on cars, meals and tickets to sports events.

FBI Special Agent Melissa Fortunato calculated that Forlani's company did more than $40,000 of work at Dimora's house but did not start sending bills to Dimora until after they became aware of the FBI's corruption investigation.

Fortunato also testified that Dimora got special deals from a local car dealership between 2002 and 2008 with the dealership sending bills for his car purchases, rentals and repairs to Forlani's company.

"Doan Pyramid was a very profitable account," testified Fortunato of the relationship between the dealership and Forlani.  "They took care of Mr. Dimora because of his relationship with Doan Pyramid," she continued.

Fortunato testified that Dimora's son was able to have rental cars for three summers when he was home from college without Dimora paying anything for them himself.

She calculated that the amount of money the dealership billed to Forlani's company on behalf of Dimora was more than $38,000.

Defense attorneys for Forlani argued in cross examination that there are no records at all that show Forlani himself approved of the payments to the dealership, and that there was no evidence that they were ever paid at all.

Forlani's lawyers contend that the dealership wrote off the losses from the Dimora accounts because Doan Pyramid was such a profitable account for them.

Government prosecutors contend that Forlani also wined and dined Dimora, spending more than $800 on dinners for the former county commissioner and his friends.

They also played wiretapped telephone conversations in which Forlani himself talks about making a $20,000 contribution to a political fund for then City Council President Martin Sweeney.  In the phone call, Forlani is heard saying "money cures a lot of evils."

The sentencing hearing continues on Wednesday when government prosecutors are expected to call more witnesses that could include others who have already pleaded guilty to charges of their own and have already been sentenced.

Forlani could get 8 years in prison when he is sentenced by Federal Judge Sara Lioi.

For more on the Jimmy Dimora Investigation, click here

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