Parma builder guilty of fraud gets probation

PARMA, Ohio (AP) - A contractor who confessed to embezzling $127,000 from the city housing authority got probation rather than prison Tuesday, drawing fire from city officials.
Common Pleas Judge Richard McMonagle said he sentenced James Taylor to four years probation so the builder can repay the stolen money.
"If he was sent to prison, they would have never gotten it back," McMonagle said after the sentencing.
City Council President Chuck Germana, who also chairs the city's housing authority, said the sentence sent the wrong message.
"It says if you loot and pillage, the chances are you're only going to be asked to repay what you stole and get a slap on the hand," Germana said.
Taylor could have been sentenced to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for working with former housing director Rozann Vannello to steal housing-maintenance funds. Vanello died in January.
Detectives said Taylor faked 60 projects for the Chevy Brook Estate housing center last year. Police said Taylor and Vannello used some of the stolen funds to gamble.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development wants $108,000 it paid to the housing authority back and criticized the city for allowing the money to go unprotected.
At the sentencing, Taylor apologized, but City Law Director Tim Dobeck asked for a prison sentence anyway.
"This is a massive fraud on the city," Dobeck said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)