Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Vegas trip, the prostitute, and the $38 million contract

Plenty of good stuff in the feds’ latest charge (pdf) against a Jimmy Dimora crony. First, 21 months after the FBI hauled it out of his house, we finally learn the significance of Dimora’s refrigerator:

Shortly before November 29, 2006, Dimora asked Kleem to purchase a refrigerator valued at approximately $1,150 and to have it delivered to the Dimora residence. … Kleem, through one of his companies, purchased the refrigerator and arranged for Blaze employees to deliver it.

(The blue quotes are from the prosecutors’ filing, with “Dimora” substituted for “PO1,” because we all know the feds’ code name for the un-charged Dimora by now. Kleem is contractor Ferris Kleem, charged with bribery conspiracy in federal court on Thursday. Around the same time as the fridge delivery, Dimora allegedly called a county employee and tried to get a grant to the city of Berea expedited at Kleem’s request.)

Next, our story takes the pulp-novel turn we all anticipated and feared. Keep reading if you dare.

On or about April 8, 2008, and during the Las Vegas trip, Dimora asked Kleem to hire a prostitute for Dimora. In response, Kleem paid a prostitute approximately $1,000 in cash and escorted the prostitute to Dimora’s suite at the Mirage for the purposes of providing services to Dimora. …

Dimora called back and asked, “I just said, she gives me a massage. Is that how we’re going to start her out?” …

At approximately 12:44 a.m., Dimora called Kleem and thanked him. Kleem asked Dimora, “Was that the best or what?” Dimora said, “Yeah, she’s good but a little chatty.” Dimora thanked Kleem, who said, “No problem, buddy.”

Dimora and Kleem then agreed to meet at 1:00 a.m. at the Chinese restaurant in the Mirage.

This is where Dimora’s defense gets really good. "If it was anything at all, it was exactly what he said it was it was: a massage, and that's not illegal," Dimora’s lawyer, Richard Lillie, told the Plain Dealer.

A $1,000 massage! Could this be what Dimora meant by, “I’m no angel, but I’m no crook”?

{Update, 5/1: Dimora tells Duane Pohlman he got a massage, not sex, and paid the woman himself. See this new post.}

Despite the ick factor, Dimora’s alleged Mirage encounter is (of course) the runaway hit from the Kleem charge, attracting airplay from PD cartoonist Jeff Darcy and less reputable news sources alike.

But sex can distract us from other, homelier sins. Let’s step back a page in the Kleem charges to see what’s happening in Cleveland while Kleem and Dimora are partying on the Strip: Kleem’s $38 million bid for a contract at the new juvenile justice center gets beaten out. As the feds tell it, when the bad news reaches the VIPs at the Mirage, Dimora hits the phones, looking for ways to disqualify the bidder who beat Kleem’s Blaze Building, putting in his last call in about 10 hours before the prostitute arrives.

If Dimora did try to nudge the contract to Blaze, it didn’t work: Blaze competitor Panzica, the low bidder, got the job. So when Dimora’s lawyer tells the PD, "Kleem received absolutely nothing from Mr. Dimora," that could well be true.

But Lillie’s job just got tougher. Looks like this is the story prosecutors want to tell a jury: Dimora tried to steer a $38 million contract to his friend the same day the guy bought him a hooker in Vegas.

(You can read the prosecutors' press release here and their charging document here.)

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