The feds have indicted Vince Russo, son of county auditor Frank Russo, on charges of being an evil, dirty Santa Claus.
OK, so that's not in the indictment exactly. The young Russo is officially charged with bribery and with conspiracy to bribe, extort, and obstruct.
The feds say Russo, 31, gave widescreen HD TVs to two Maple Heights school officials in December 2007. Allegedly, on Dec. 21, 2007, Russo got a "Business 14" to buy a 46-inch Sharp Aquos liquid crystal TV -- selling on Amazon for $1,799 these days -- which Russo passed on to board member Sandy Klimkowski to give to schools treasurer Christopher Krause, who put it in his basement. Klimkowski allegedly got a Vizio. Prosecutors think there's a connection to some of the Maple Heights schools' business transactions in 2007 and 2008.
After the FBI raided the county building and Business 14 in July 2008, Russo allegedly told Klimkowski she and Krause should "get rid of" them. Krause, not quite willing to part with that amazing high-def clarity, stashed his in a Maple Heights schools warehouse instead.
So what's Business 14? If it's the same Business 14 from the MetroHealth corruption cases, it may be Doan Pyramid, raided in July 2008 and mentioned on lots of search warrants since.
What's this mean for Clevelanders who are waiting and waiting to for the prosecutors to indict Frank Russo already? The feds are getting closer to their endgame -- they're amping up the pressure on Vince's dad. They managed to charge Vince three times for giving K&K the TVs -- bribery, bribery conspiracy and extortion conspiracy! (Shouldn't they pick one?)
Can't you see the worried father's breakdown at the 48th minute of the Law & Order episode?
"All right! I'll plead. Just... go easy on my son."
Update, 7/14, pm: Vince Russo pleaded not guilty in court today. "We intend to go to trial and defend [against] these charges," his lawyer, Bill Beyer, told reporters on the federal courthouse steps today. Beyer said there's another explanation for the TVs, which he'll reveal at trial. See the cleveland.com video here.
The indictment suggests that only the Sharp TV came from Business 14, not both TVs. I've rewritten the post to correct that.