AKRON -- J. Kevin Kelley, one of the first Cuyahoga County corruption targets who turned on his friends, was sentenced to six years in federal prison today.

U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi agreed to recommend that he serve the time in a federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida. Kelley left Cleveland almost immediately after it was discovered he was cooperating with the FBI and he and his family have spent the last four years living in a rented home in suburban Tampa.

Because of the amount of cooperation that Kelley exhibited with federal agents, U.S. prosecutors recommended that Lioi to reduce his sentence.

Kelley, 44, has been living on a $60,000-a-year disability pension due to the stress of getting caught and convicted in the county corruption scheme's fallout.

Kelley, who told Lioi that he suffers from depression and other disorders, looked in good health when he testified at the trial of former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora.

Kelley began cooperating with federal authorities just days after July 28, 2008, the day about 200 FBI/IRS agents simultaneously raided Cuyahoga County offices and homes of elected officials and businessmen.

He was among the first to plead guilty to corruption charges, admitting to fleecing taxpayers out of more than $600,000. He has been ordered to repay $705,634 -- $527,773 to Cuyahoga County, $90,755 to Parma Schools and $87,106 to the IRS.

Kelley was a former Cuyahoga County employee and Parma School Board member. He had pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to multiple counts of Hobbs Act conspiracy, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to commit theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and making false tax returns.

"Kevin Kelley, the last of more than 60 indicted individuals in Operation Airball to be sentenced, exploited his corrupt connections in order to line his pockets," said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Cleveland office. "The FBI will continue efforts to combat misuse of taxpayers' dollars at any level."

Kelley previously pleaded guilty to several bribery schemes involving then-Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo, Dimora, Anthony O. Calabrese III, Ferris Kleem and others.

Kelley admitted to helping organize a bribery scheme in which Dimora and Russo were sent to Las Vegas in exchange for supporting county funding for the agency. Kelley was paid my by Alternatives Agency for "consulting services" and he used a portion of the money to purchase first-class airfare to Las Vegas for Dimora, Russo and Russo's companion Michael Calabrese, according to court documents.

Kelley organized the trip in coordination with Ferris Kleem and then helped Kleem get an inspector he specifically requested to work the Snow Road resurfacing project, which was being performed by Kleem's company, according to court documents.

Calabrese hired Kelley as a consultant for Alternatives Agency, paying up to $4,900 a month, but Kelley performed little actual work for the agency. Instead the money was paid in order to obtain favorable consideration from Kelley and others on business matters unrelated to Alternatives Agency, according to court documents.

On several occasions, Kelley also steered county contracts and Parma schools contracts to companies that paid bribes to him or to his friends and associates, according to court documents.

Kelley also filed false tax returns in years 2003-2007 in which he did not disclose $189,659 of income, according to court documents.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Antoinette T. Bacon, Ann C. Rowland and Nancy L. Kelley following an investigation by the FBI and IRS – Criminal Investigation.

Read or Share this story: