16 September 2010

Shades of what's to come: Cuyahoga County Corruption Scandal

Editor: El Paso, Cuyahoga County Ohio....seems like the dominos are starting to fall, does it not?  From a distance, it is easy to sit back and watch these horror shows and wonder how such obvious corruption could go unchecked for so long.  How could the citizens of these cities and counties elect such amoral crooks?  Now look in the mirror and ask yourself the same question. 

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer

Jimmy Dimora at center of one of biggest local corruption cases in U.S. history

Published: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 7:16 AM Updated: Thursday, September 16, 2010, 6:26 AM

Tony Brown and Peter Krouse / Plain Dealer Reporters

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- It is a shocking and emblematic photograph that could be of New York City's Boss Tweed, 140 years later: Jimmy Dimora, the most powerful man in Cuyahoga County politics, led away in manacles to FBI headquarters, to federal court, and into infamy.

But the picture painted by the 177 pages in indictments made public Wednesday against eight suspects -- including Cuyahoga County commissioner Dimora and two county judges -- is even more shocking, alleging what could be one of the biggest local political-machine corruption cases in recent U.S. history.

It also, for the first time, implicates a second commissioner, Peter Lawson Jones, in the broad pay-for-play scandal that has infected local government and garnered almost three dozen guilty pleas.

Jones is not charged, or named, but as "Public Official 9" he has now entered the alpha-numeric lexicon of those who are accused of trading jobs for bribes and campaign donations.

The focus of the grand jury indictments paints Dimora, the gruff, often crude commissioner, as a high-on-the-hog crook indulging himself in goodies at public expense as the boss of a complex corruption scheme in a county that is home to one of the poorest big cities in America.

According to the FBI investigation, Dimora, until last year the chairman of the local Democratic party, helped himself to:
  • Sex on demand with top-dollar call girls, and with a woman who sought his help to get a job.
  • Pricey lunches at fancy restaurants such as Delmonico's Steakhouse.
  • A high-flying gambling junket to Las Vegas and more nights of partying at a Stonebridge condominium overlooking Cleveland's Flats.
  • A four-figure discount on a Rolex watch.
  • Free or deeply-discounted improvements to his $438,000 home, which the indictments seek to seize in forfeiture actions against Dimora and other defendants.
The indictments, sprinkled with four-letter words and denigrating and obscene references to women, or "broads," also show a Dimora who was sometimes irritated when those from whom he received favors asked for quid pro quo favors in return.

"How many times am I going to do you a f-ing favor," Dimora asked Robert Rybak, an executive with a local plumbers and pipe-fitting union who was also charged in Wednesday's indictments.

DMN: Special prosecutor appointed to investigate Collin County DA's office

Editor: Does anyone still believe that justice is even possible in Collin County?  The unfortunate truth is that there are no "good guys" in what is happening...merely the corrupt against the corrupt.  As they say, there is no honor among thieves.  Truly pathetic and disgusting.

Special prosecutor appointed to investigate Collin County DA's office

06:54 PM CDT on Thursday, September 16, 2010

By ED HOUSEWRIGHT / The Dallas Morning News

A special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate “possible criminal wrongdoing” in Collin County District Attorney John Roach’s office.

The grand jury that requested the prosecutor was impaneled by state District Judge Suzanne Wooten, who has been under investigation by Roach’s office.

Roach said Thursday, “I have the utmost confidence that every person in my office has acted honorably and within the bounds of the law in the performance of their duties.”

For more than a year, Roach said, the district attorney’s office has investigated Wooten, elected in 2008, for alleged campaign law violations.

Of the special prosecutor’s appointment, Roach said, “It is no wonder that I have concerns about the integrity of the entire process in impaneling Judge Wooten’s grand jury and its subsequent actions to date.”

Wooten’s attorney, Peter Schulte, said the judge recused herself from overseeing the grand jury in late June, when she learned that Roach was still investigating her. Another judge signed the order dated Wednesday appointing attorney Terence Hart of Dallas as special prosecutor. The judge’s signature on the order is unclear.

“Grand jury proceedings are supposed to be secret,” Schulte said. “I’ve talked to Judge Wooten. She has no idea what this is about.”

Hart, a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, has a history of being involved in high-profile investigations.

08 September 2010

Rule 11 Agreements and "Agreed" Temporary Orders

Over the last several months, we have browsed through hundreds of divorce/child custody case dockets online. As mentioned in our previous post regarding the OCA, there seems to be a certain group of lawyers and court-appointed "neutrals" who appear again and again in particularly nasty cases.

Shortly after the original petition or petition to modify is opened, the whores of the court make their entrance. You know who you are...the "court-appointed" custody evaluators, psychologists, and other assorted parasites who pour gasoline on the fire and literally feed themselves and their wretched offspring on the misery of others. All of the sudden things like social studies, psychological evaluations, and parenting facilitators are thrown into the equation. The value of these "services" is questionable at best...particularly in light of the dubious methods used by the aforementioned whores of the court.

But I digress...

Another theme that seems to be quite common in the early stages of these cases is the request for a "protective order" by one party against the other. A "Temporary Orders" hearing is set, and let me tell you, quite a show is put on by the attorneys to make it appear as though they are really fighting tooth and nail for their clients. But then something odd often happens: once all of the attorney showmanship and courtroom pageantry dies down, an "agreed temporary order" is entered into the court record.

06 September 2010

Public corruption: Feds allege bribery, kickbacks

Lawyers, judges, schoold board members, county commisioners taking bribes?  I'm shocked, I tell you.  SHOCKED.  I'm sure nothing like this is happening here in our county.  What a relief.  The worst we have are some of Hannah Kunkle's employees stealing some unearned vacation time, right?

From the El Paso Times

Public corruption: Feds allege bribery, kickbacks

By Ramon Bracamontes and Gustavo Reveles Acosta/ El Paso Times

09/03/2010 12:00:00 AM MDT

Investigation into public corruption

Eleven people -- including the mayor of Socorro, two lawyers and several current and former elected officials -- used a scheme of bribes and kickbacks to obtain contracts for Access HealthSource, a local health-care provider, federal prosecutors allege.

The workings of the enterprise were unveiled in a 27-page indictment that became public Thursday. The indictment charges all of them with six counts of bribery and fraud. Most of them are also charged with one count of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act, known as RICO.

The RICO charge is commonly used by the government to fight criminal organizations.

Those indicted Tuesday and arrested on Thursday are:

  • Frank Apodaca Jr., 47, former president of Access, a health-care provider. He is charged with six counts of racketeering and fraud, as well as a RICO violation. He was released on $40,000 bond.
  • Marc Schwartz, 53, the former spokesman for Access and the National Center for Employment of the Disabled (NCED). He faces six fraud charges, as well as a RICO violation. He was released on $40,000 bond.
  • Luther Jones, 64, an El Paso lawyer and former county judge and state representative. He is charged with a RICO violation and one count of fraud.
  • Gilbert Sanchez, 42, the current El Paso County district clerk. He is charged with a RICO violation and one count of fraud.
  • David Escobar, 62, an El Paso lawyer and a former city representative. He is charged with a RICO violation and one count of fraud.
  • Milton "Mickey" Duntley, 64, a retired El Paso police officer and a former Ysleta Independent School District trustee. He is charged with a RICO violation and one count of fraud.
  • Charles Garcia, 61, a former Socorro Independent School District board president. He is charged a RICO violation and one count of fraud.
  • Ray Rodriguez, 57, a former SISD trustee and former mayor of Socorro. He is charged with a RICO violation and one count of fraud.
  • Larry Medina, 51, a former city representative and county commissioner. He is charged with a RICO violation and two counts of fraud. He was released on $20,000 bond.
  • Linda Chavez, 60, a current Ysleta Independent School District board member. She is charged with one count of fraud.
  • Willie Gandara Sr., 60, the mayor of Socorro and a former SISD trustee. He is charged with one count of fraud.

All of them are expected to plead not guilty next week in federal court.

Joe Spencer, the attorney for Gandara, said he is confident his client will be exonerated. The charge against Gandara is linked to when he was an SISD trustee and he voted to give Access the district's health insurance contract.

"He is named in one count and is accused of taking a $1,000 bribe in the form of a campaign contribution," Spencer said. "As a matter of practice, the Gandaras do not accept campaign contributions. He is not a man that needs a $1,000 contribution."

The heart of the indictment centers on the allegation that four of the men indicted -- Apodaca, Schwartz, Jones and Escobar -- bribed and made arrangements with the other seven to approve contracts for Access, the indictment states.

Access HealthSource eventually lost all of its public contracts and was sold. It is now known as Foresight TPA.

Medina, Chavez, Duntley, Garcia, Rodriguez, Sanchez and Gandara are accused of accepting bribes, some of which were masked as campaign contributions, the indictment states.

Federal prosecutors said the indictment is a part of a six-year investigation they dubbed "Operation Poisoned Pawns."

"That's exactly what happened," said John Murphy, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas in El Paso. "We had some people come into the county and the school districts to poison the system in which fair and equitable contracts are awarded."

Investigators said the elected officials indicted on Thursday took sums of money from "as little as under $1,000 and as much as many thousands" to award the third-party health insurance contract to Access, which was sold and renamed.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Kanof said the investigation began in 2004 when an FBI special agent, whom she didn't name, was transferred into the public corruption investigation office.

What the agent uncovered, she said, led to a wide-range investigation aided by at least three wiretaps and thousands of hours of recorded conversations.

David Cuthbertson, the FBI special agent in charge in El Paso, said Access "manipulated" public officials in order to secure contracts worth up to $150 million. He added that other victims of these allegations were the companies that also competed for the health-care and legal contracts in the school districts and the county.

"There are legitimate vendors who were deprived of their rights to compete in a fair and accurate manner," Cuthbertson said.

For years, Access was a third-party administrator of health-care benefits for local governments. Between 1998 and 2007, Access had contracts with the city, county and the three major school districts.

This is the seventh indictment stemming from a large-scale FBI investigation, which began in 2004. To date, 13 individuals have pleaded guilty to criminal conduct stemming from the investigation. The seven indictments contain a total of 17 charged defendants.

El Paso lawyer Tom Stanton, who is representing Charles Garcia, said that Thursday was a sad day for all of El Paso.

"My client is innocent, and I feel sad for him and for his family because he is being put through this," he said. "It's also a sad day for El Paso because a lot of people are being unjustly accused."

Ramon Bracamontes may be reached at rbracamontes@ elpasotimes.com; 546-6142.

Gustavo Reveles Acosta may be reached at greveles@elpasotimes.com; 546-6133.