CLEVELAND- The FOX 8 I-Team has now uncovered a criminal charge filed for a big bucks scandal at the highest levels of RTA, and we've found the investigation is not over.
A charge of theft in office has been filed in Cuyahoga County Court against former RTA Board President George Dixon.
Last year, RTA revealed an internal investigation showed Dixon had "improperly" received more than a million dollars in benefits which included health care benefits and more.
We’ve learned Cuyahoga County prosecutors determined Dixon received more than a million dollars worth of medical care benefits over many years, but he had not paid the full amount of his insurance premiums.
Investigators found he didn’t pay $132,000 he should have paid to keep getting insurance benefits.
Dixon stepped down. And Tuesday, the I-Team tracked him down shortly after the charge was filed.
He said, "I'll be honest, Ed; I think at this point, especially with me not going to court yet, say no comment."
When we asked him what he'd say to riders and taxpayers, he responded, "I would say the people at RTA are doing a fantastic job. They should have all the confidence in the world in them."
When we reminded him about his scandal, he said, "An organization this large some things happen."
The charges were filed in the form of what's called an "information" which generally indicates a suspect is cooperating with authorities. In this case, it basically is a plea deal worked out ahead of time.
Dixon faces 9 to 36 months in prison, and we’ve learned Cuyahoga County prosecutors will also ask for that $132,000 to be paid back.
In a statement from Dennis M. Clough, President RTA Board of Trustees, and Mayor of Westlake, it was revealed that Dixon "will plead guilty to charges of theft in office during his 24-year tenure at RTA and has agreed to pay $132,000 in restitution, which represents unpaid health insurance premium dollars."
The statement goes on to say: "Today's agreement is a result of an investigation directed by the Board of Trustees and conducted by RTA’s Internal Audit department. In 2018, the Board referred the findings of that investigation to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office.
Mr. Dixon abused the public's trust for personal benefit. We are encouraged to see that justice is being served. We do not tolerate abuse of taxpayer money, and we have controls in place to prevent this from happening again.
Mr. Dixon, who served as RTA board president for 24 years, resigned March 29, 2018 at the board's request. RTA is pursuing, through insurance claim recovery, the more than $1.1 million in healthcare benefits and unpaid premiums for insurance provided by RTA for a 24-year period ending on March 1, 2018. The Board policy at the time stated that trustees could enroll in RTA's healthcare plan but had to pay 100% of the healthcare premiums to be eligible. The investigation showed that Mr. Dixon enrolled in April of 1994 and never fully paid his premiums in accordance with board policies. The Board changed the policy in May 2018: Trustees are no longer eligible for RTA's healthcare plan."
We also asked if anyone else will be prosecuted for this? Prosecutors simply call it an "ongoing investigation" saying they can't comment more than that.
Riders we met struggle with fares and cuts in service. They told us they're glad to see someone held accountable.
Dixon goes to court next month.