I-Team: Cleveland police supervisor fired after bribery investigation

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The president of the union for Cleveland police supervisors tells the I-TEAM a sergeant has now been fired after investigators found he repeatedly had contact with a bar owner convicted for bribing police.

FOP President Brian Betley said this week, the city fired Sgt. Vincent Montague.

“It is confirmed,” said Betley.

And, a disciplinary letter from the Cleveland Safety director reviewed by the I-TEAM said, “You are hereby terminated from employment with the City of Cleveland…effective December 29, 2021.”

Safety Director Karrie Howard also wrote, “Through your actions, you exhibited complete disregard for ethical behavior relating to honesty and avoiding the appearance of impropriety. Your actions constituted gross immorality and a gross neglect of duty.”

Months ago, internal investigators filed 17 administrative charges against Montague.

The case relates to contact Montague had with a bar owner in Tremont.

The charges say Montague was “untruthful and/or dishonest” when questioned about his communication with Andrew Long after Long “pled guilty and after he was indicted for bribing a police officer.”

The charges also say Montague “failed to avoid the appearance of impropriety” when he communicated with the bar owner while knowing the owner had been charged with attempting to bribe an officer.

In January, a Cuyahoga County judge sentenced Andrew Long to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The I-TEAM reached out to Montague about the firing, and we did not immediately hear back.

The FOP president said, “The Union did file a grievance on his behalf.” But, the union’s executive board will decide later whether or not to fight the case through arbitration.

Long owns the Duck Island Club, a tiny bar on the city’s near west side. Cuyahoga County prosecutors built a bribery case against him saying he was looking for protection so that his bar would not get cited for operating after-hours.

A Cleveland police officer recorded undercover video.

You hear the officer say, “You’ve been cited a couple times in the past, and you don’t want to get cited.”  Long answers, “Right.”

The officer then asks, “Do you want an officer here, or do you just want information? What do you want?” 

Long then says, “My goal is to not get busted by Vice or the State anymore. Whatever I need to do.”

At one point he adds,  “I just want to be off the (expletive) list. I just don’t want to get in trouble for after-hours anymore.”

Later, the officer asks, “So, 300 bucks a night?” Then Long says, “Every other week. Every other week.”

Long pleaded guilty to bribery, and he faced Cuyahoga County Judge David Matia for sentencing.

Matia said, “What you did here is you bribed a police officer. You didn’t attempt to bribe a police officer.”

He added, “Pure greed in action.”

The conversation captured undercover actually happened in 2019.

The internal charges against Monatgue say he had contact with the bar owner through phone calls and messages 10 times between May of 2019 and October of 2020.

Montague had also previously served as President of the Black Shield Police Association, a social organization that supports minority police officers.

Meantime, the investigation has generated even more fallout.

The  I-TEAM has reported a Cleveland police lieutenant filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the chief, the safety director, and two other police supervisors saying he was removed as head of the Bomb Squad for reporting that bar owner offering a bribe.

Lt. Timothy Maffo-Judd wants to get his job back with the Bomb Squad, and he’s seeking financial damages.

Mafffo-Judd went undercover and recorded the bar owner offering him money while looking for protection.

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