Two more Cleveland Department of Building and Housing inspectors have been charged. The investigation into corruption in Cuyahoga County government continues. Ideastream®'s Bill Rice has more.
James McCoulough and Juan Alejandro, both Cleveland building inspectors, are accused of demanding money from FBI agents posing as investors looking to flip properties for a quick profit, in exchange for posting violation notices the properties to drive down their value, then removing them after the purchase. Both have been suspended without pay. Frank Figliuzzi is the special agent in charge of the investigation for the Cleveland FBI office.
Figliuzzi: "Today's charges bring us to six curremt or former building and housing inspectors who have now forfeited their careers, their reputations and quite possibly their freedom, over amounts of money that I'm sure each inspector would now tell you is not worth it."
FBI officials would not give details of the crimes, but said they were brought to light by business people who were being shaken down. wiretapping and undercover work were instrumental in catching the offenders.
Figliuzzi says the FBI's investigation into the building and housing Department is now closed, and it will turn over the results of its investigation to Mayor Frank Jackson and the Cleveland Police Department. Mayor Jackson said the city will continue investigating, and could turn up more behavior that would result in criminal charges or administrative discipline.
Jackson acknowledged that the Building and Housing Department, which employs 75 inspectors, has for decades been the target of corruption allegations. Asked whether he or past mayors were culpable in allowing corruption to take root, Jackson said in a large city the potential is always there, but people need to come forward and report it. He said new policies he's developing will help keep it at bay.
Jackson: "And it will go up the chain from that employee to direct supervisor, to director, all the way. And I will be holding people accountable all the way down."
The FBI's Frank Figliuzzi says he completely trusts Jackson to follow up on additional information the bureau has uncovered . And, he says, the FBI is still investigating possible corruption in Cuyahoga County government. That probe was made public last year with raids on the offices of Commissioner Jimmy Dimora and Auditor Frank Russo.
Bill Rice, 90.3.