Thirteen Cleveland Firefighters Indicted in Payroll Abuse Case

A Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted 13 Cleveland firefighters, accusing them of illegally paying co-workers to cover most of their shifts — freeing them to work other full-time jobs or run their own companies while continuing to collect salaries and benefits from the city, reports Cleveland.com.

The indictments, which include theft in office and soliciting or receiving improper compensation, might mark the first time firefighters anywhere in the country have faced felony charges for the illegal practice, commonly known as “caddying.”

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said in a news release that the firefighters each failed to work at least 2,000 hours — about one year — of their scheduled time. The most serious case involved firefighter Calvin Robinson, who had colleagues work 8,456 hours on his behalf. That amounts to about 4 ½ years.

“The public’s trust was violated,” McGinty said in the release. “In addition to not working and receiving full pay, these individuals abused the system and collected retirement, vacation, medical and other benefits. They caused other firefighters to work multiple days without rest. Fatigued firefighters put the safety of the people (they serve) at risk as well as their fellow firefighters.”

The indicted firefighters, in addition to Robinson, 52, are: Kevin Dever, 42; Bernard Frohnapple, 51; Barry Kifus, 40; Kevin P. Kelly, 52; James Oleksiak, 44; Robert Graham, 50; Michael Milano, 53; Nicholas Rucella, 49; Gary McNamara, 48; Peter Corso, 57; Thomas Jurcisin, 41;  and Daniel Losteiner, 45.

They each face up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine for the felony theft in office charge. Receiving improper compensation is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, as well as a seven-year exile from public employment.

The indictments come nearly a year after a special investigator hired by the city released his report recommending the prosecution of five firefighters. The investigator, retired federal prosecutor Ronald Bakeman, spent six months probing whether systemic payroll abuses in the Fire Department, flagged in a series of city audits, rose to the level of criminality.

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