Saturday, October 13, 2012

Can Frank Russo please go to prison now?

UPDATED below with news of prosecutors' motion.

Two years after ex-auditor Frank Russo pleaded guilty to stealing more than $1 million from taxpayers, he's still free and living large.

I haven't heard of any Russo sightings in Tremont restaurants lately, but he's comfortably dwelling in a Mayfield Heights condo bought by his longtime housemate, Michael Calabrese, in January. Even county exec Ed FitzGerald has lost his patience, ripping the feds at a town hall meeting Wednesday for Frank's sweetheart fink deal.

Now comes word that Russo's former chief deputy, Samir Mohammad, is pleading guilty to cash-bribing sleaze.  Can Russo please go to prison now?

With Mohammad pleading Monday, only two big cases are left to go in the five-year-long Cuyahoga County corruption scandal.  Charges against Robert Peto, the former port authority board member, don't appear related to Russo at all.

That leaves the February trial of Anthony Calabrese III, who faces 20 charges, including some stemming from his alleged role in Russo and Jimmy Dimora's infamous bribe-spiked Vegas trip. (Calabrese is also accused of witness tampering to cover up possible bribes related to the county's purchase of the Ameritrust Tower.)

Prosecutors say they need Russo close by to prepare for his court testimony. But Russo should only need to testify about two alleged schemes at the Calabrese trial: a contract steered to a halfway house and an alleged property assessment fixing for a senior community in Euclid.

It's time for the feds to do their prep work.  Because it's time for Russo to start doing time.

Update, 10/15: Finally! Prosecutors filed a motion today saying Russo's cooperation is "substantially complete" and asking for a court hearing, where it can recommend a reduction in his 22-year sentence for his testimony.  They want to hold the hearing by Oct. 25.

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