Thursday, September 9, 2010

At Euclid's Lourdes shrine, Russo asks contractor to cover for him, feds say

How's this for a movie scene?

Last August, Frank Russo met up at the Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine and Grotto in Euclid with a retired contractor, a relative of one of his employees.

Russo knew him well. But he may or may not have known that IRS agents had already interviewed the contractor about $25,000 he'd loaned Russo and shingles he'd had hung on Russo's bathhouse. The IRS thought they were bribes in exchange for three raises for the contractor's relative.

Russo was troubled that Monday in August. He had more than prayer on his mind. Five days earlier, he'd learned that his aide Sandy Klimkowski was telling the feds he'd taken cash kickbacks from a $21 million contract.

I'll let the prosecutors' filing take it from here:

Russo told BE30 that Russo was making a list of the donations that Russo received following the death of his son approximately 15 years previously. In an attempt to induce BE30 to falsely state to investigating agents that Russo had legitimate access to large amounts of cash, Russo told BE30 that he put on the list that BE30 gave Russo a $10,000 donation. BE30 had not given Russo a $10,000 donation.

That's from Count 13 filed against Russo today, charging him with witness tampering.

If it's all true, what a moment! At a place where people pray for healing, Russo's using his dead son as a fake excuse for stashing huge amounts of kickback cash.

Update, 9/11: Rachel Dissell of the Plain Dealer identifies BE30 as Ronald Romanini, a longtime friend of Russo's. She also quotes Sister Phyllis Ann Lavelle, one of the nuns who oversees the shrine. Lavelle says the sisters knew Russo was a frequent visitor. They thought he was coming there to pray.

"That is awful," Lavelle says. "I don't know how they could do that here in a place of peace and prayer."

(photo of shrine from

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