Feds: North Royalton contractor bribed former Cleveland demolition bureau chief

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — A North Royalton contractor is charged with paying bribes to a former Cleveland official, as part of an expanding federal probe into corruption within the city’s demolition operations.

A federal grand jury indicted ABC Construction owner Martin Fano Wednesday on seven counts of honest services mail and wire fraud. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement that the 69 year old paid cash bribes to Rufus Taylor, then the city’s demolition bureau chief.

Fano bribed Taylor between June 2016 and January 2017 so the city would provide quick inspections of his company’s work and get more immediate access to signed permits for his jobs, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. This allowed him to garner faster payments for demolition jobs, according to a news release.

The case centers on two demolition jobs ABC Construction did for on East 72nd Street and Marshall Avenue for the Cuyahoga County Land Bank in 2016. Charging documents detail three instances in which authorities say Fano gave Taylor a combined $460.

Fano declined to discuss the case when contacted Thursday and said he would have his attorney call a cleveland.com reporter. His attorney James Lynch said his client would plead not guilty and fight the charges. Lynch said Fano paid nobody bribes but declined to discuss the case any further.

Taylor pleaded guilty Sept. 4 to extortion and bribery in a federally funded program. He admitted to taking thousands of dollars from two contractors and gave them preferential treatment for government-funded demolition and abatement projects. He has yet to be sentenced.

Fano is the second contractor charged as part of an investigation being led by the FBI. Eric Witherspoon, the head of Arick’s Environmental Services and Arick’s Services, is accused of paying Taylor cash bribes exchange for confidential information and preferential treatment for city jobs.

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Mike Tobin said the case remains under investigation. A grand jury subpoena issued July 26 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the IRS sought records pertaining to Joseph and Gwen Tucceri, as well as companies affiliated with the Lake County couple. The Tucceris have not been charged.

Eric Heisig, cleveland.com

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