CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Documents from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office show that Cleveland Councilman Kenneth Johnson and two others were arrested on charges of theft from federal programs.
The 74-year-old sitting Cleveland City Council member elected to represent Ward 4 and the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood faces 15 charges related to federal program theft, including:
- 2 counts of conspiracy to commit federal program theft
- 6 counts of federal program theft
- 5 counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns
- 1 count of tampering with a witness
- 1 count of falsification of records in a federal investigation
Garnell Jamison, a 61-year-old Cleveland man, and 57-year-old John Hopkins, of Cleveland Heights, were also arrested in connection to the scheme.
Jamison worked for the city of Cleveland as Johnson’s executive assistant.
Hopkins was the executive director of the Buckeye Shaker Square Development Corporation.
Both of Johnson’s associates face federal crimes that range from federal program theft and conspiracy to commit theft.
According to the federal indictment, the three men conspired together between January 2010 and October 2018 to commit federal program theft by inducing Cleveland to issue reimbursement checks from the city’s general fund for maintenance expenses that were never actually performed.
Robert Fitzpatrick, a former city of Cleveland employee with the Division of Recreation, pleaded guilty to bill of information on Feb. 8 in connection to the alleged plot, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Investigators said Fitzpatrick was approached by Johnson and Jamison in 2010 and asked him to perform maintenance services, such as cutting grass and assisting with snow removal, throughout Ward 4. He performed those duties for approximately six weeks, but was never paid by Johnson. He did not perform any additional services in Ward 4 after the six weeks, but continued to sign and submit timesheets reflecting his work. Those timesheets were then approved by Johnson and submitted with his “Council Member Expense Reports” to the city of Cleveland making it appear that he regularly paid Fitzpatrick in cash, making those expenses reimbursable.
Johnson is alleged to have requested and received the maximum reimbursement of $1,200 each month from the city of Cleveland, totaling approximately $127,000 between January 2010 and October 2018, for the services that Fitzpatrick. seemingly performed.
Those reimbursement checks were then deposited into Johnson’s personal bank account, according to the indictment.
Throughout the scheme, the three are accused of creating fraudulent documents and timesheets, causing BSSDC to issue approximately $50,000 checks that were later deposited into Johnson-controlled bank accounts.
“These individuals are accused of developing and implementing schemes to defraud hardworking American federal taxpayers,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Smith. “Citizens should have confidence that their elected representatives are ethical and law abiding, not enriching themselves through graft and deceit.”
Johnson and the two other defendants are scheduled to appear via video for arraignment on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. in federal court.
A statement on behalf of the Cleveland City Council has not yet been released publicly.
This is a developing story and will be updated.