County Corruption: Former Employee Making Explosive Charges

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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A former employee of county auditor Frank Russo's office is making explosive charges.

He says he tried to blow the whistle on corruption in the auditors office years ago and it cost him his job.

John Rieman was an appraiser in Russo's office.  He sometimes socialized with Russo.   Rieman says when he approached Russo personally with what he witnessed, it all changed and when he tried to go public he got the boot.

Rieman says, "I was called con man, liar, cheater and I guess the FBI has proved that I didn't lie."

John Rieman feels vindicated. He believes the FBI's raids and now federal charges are late in coming. In 2005 he says he tried to tell Frank Russo that appraisals of expensive properties were being fudged; lowered to save certain people on their taxes.

He says, "I was following orders, not a licensed appraiser, was told by licensed appraisers and it came from Frank Russo directly to slash these values to make these people happy."

Knowing what was going on was wrong, John started writing memo's to superiors, making sure they were included in his personnel file.  He thought it was a way to protect himself. Then he met with Russo.

Rieman says, "I went straight to him but when he started saying you look like you're trying to get me in trouble, swearing at me, screaming at me, I thought somethings not right."

After Rieman went public on television Russo's counterattack began.

He says he was moved to an unsecured area of the office, with no access to computers he couldn't do his job or uncover any other irregular assessments.  It was also an area where reporters could question him.

Rieman says, "I would say I'm a whistle blower."

The attack was on internally as well. Samir Mohammed, Russo's Chief of Staff and a man who admits he is PE5, an unindicted person named in federal informations as someone taking and delivering bribes.

In March 2005, Mohammed said, "our investigation showed the only one he blew the whistle on was himself."

Finally, Rieman was fired. Russo justified it at a hastily called press conference where he presented what at the time appeared justifiable reasons for canning Rieman.

Russo had this to say back in 2005.  "We went over the facts step by step and I feel he was guilty."

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