More Cuyahoga County Corruption Revelations from Ameritrust Lawsuit

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AmeritrustCountyHQ.jpg
  • Geis Cos.

Cuyahoga County filed a lawsuit Monday alleging that the acquisition of the Ameritrust Complex was ass-deep in corruption from the proverbial get-go, and no one in Cleveland is surprised. Vince Russo (son of corrupt former County Auditor Frank) and Anatomy Nightclub, among others, have been named as defendants.

This shit is always really in-depth and confusing, so let’s back up a bit.

In 2005, our dear friends the county commissioners purchased the Ameritrust Complex at Euclid and E. 9th Street for $22 million. The consulting firm they’d hired to advise them on the deal, the now-defunct Staubach Co., contends that it recommended leasing the site, rather than buying it outright. Staubach was paid $3 million for this kernel of wisdom, (a sum current county executive and starry-eyed gubernatorial hopeful Ed FitzGerald has dubbed “suspicious”).

Two years later, after $10 million in Asbestos removal costs, commissioners decided that the Ameritrust floor space just wouldn’t be suitable for County headquarters, so they tabled the plan.

Flash forward to February, 2013: Cuyahoga County sold the complex to Geis Cos. for about $27 million. If you scuttle around downtown at all, you’ve seen the Geis cranes hard at work, actively constructing new county headquarters on the site, which the county will lease. The NEOMG’s intrepid county correspondent Andrew Tobias reported that taxpayers have eaten about $18 million through this whole, nightmarish process.

But Monday, FitzGerald and his legal team filed this lawsuit which alleges that Staubach, the consulting firm, disbursed $500,000 in bogus “government relations” contracts which went to Russo and an already-convicted construction contractor, Vincent Carbone, who then shuffled funds to other familiar crooks — Joe Calabrese III, J. Kevin Kelley, another guy — all to influence the deal.

The best part of the allegations is a scheme involving the parking garage. Developer Harvey Oppman, who owned the garage, allegedly paid businessman Steven Pumper $250,000 to move the deal forward with the county (you know, by paying off Dimora). Oppman allegedly funneled the money to Pumper, in large part, via a $180,000 promissory note to the Anatomy Nightclub, where Pumper was a controversial “silent partner.”

An official at Anatomy told Tobias at NEOMG that the inclusion of the club he represents in the lawsuit was likely a mistake. He said FBI officials had cleared Anatomy's name years ago.

Anatomy Nightclub, in a hilarious side note, has an email address ending in @att.net.

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