City of Cleveland employee pleaded guilty to charges related to extortion, accepting bribes and other crimes
A City of Cleveland employee pleaded guilty to charges related to extortion, accepting bribes and other crimes after he accepted below-market improvements on his property from a contractor seeking city business and directed city projects to benefit himself, his outside businesses, and his clients.
Khalil Ewais, 44, of Cleveland, is scheduled to be sentenced on October 16. He pleaded guilty to charges including Hobbs Act extortion, bribery, federal program theft, making false statements and filing false tax returns.
His brother Abdeljawad Ewais, of Cleveland, is charged with filing false tax returns and is scheduled for a change of plea hearing on July 8.
As detailed in the plea agreement, Ewais admitted to the following facts related to his crimes:
Ewais worked in the Mayor’s Office of Capital Projects (“MOCAP”) as the section chief of construction in the division of engineering and construction. In that capacity, he oversaw construction inspectors who inspect work on the city’s roads, bridges and sidewalks. He had a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the city and its citizens.
Ewais also owned and operated Pioneer Engineering, a private engineering and consulting business that did work for private clients. He also, along with Abedeljawad Ewais and other family members, owned commercial and residential rental properties in and around Cleveland.
Company 1 bid on jobs with the City of Cleveland. In April 2015, it was awarded a contract to perform most of the resurfacing of residential streets in certain wards of Cleveland for two years. Company 1 bid approximately $5.8 million for the work.
Khalil Ewais, in his job with the city, had input into whether Company 1 received additional contracts from the city. Company 1 could not receive payment for the work it did until Ewais certified it was done appropriately. He could also direct Company 1 to complete “corrective work” which would cost the company additional time and money. He could also use his official position to help Company 1 obtain faster payment for its services.
Ewais in August 2016 contacted multiple companies, including Company 1, about paving the parking lot adjacent to Captain’s Grill, a property at 6104 Storer Ave. that he and his brother owned. Quotes for the work ranged from $48,923 to $59,152.
Ewais contacted an owner of Company 1 on August 10, 2016, about the estimate for the parking lot and said “I need it to be in the $25K range.” The owner quickly responded, “I will do the job for a lump sum of $26,000.”
Even though the parking lot work was a private job for Ewais, he sent an email form his City email address to another City official regarding the sewer connection at the border of Ewais’s property and West 61st Street, and stated that “E&C [ MOCAP’s Division of Engineering & Construction] directed the roadway work and the connection fix in the street as part of the E&C Requirement Contract.” In fact, no City agency had directed any roadway work on West 61st Street at that time, and the work was related to Ewais’s private construction project.
Ewais also used his official position to cause the city to pay to repave most of the short public alleyway next to the parking lot, West 62nd Place. Around Oct. 25, 2016, Company 1— at the direction of Ewais — instructed a subcontractor to expand the scope of its work on the parking lot job to include milling and paving the part of West 62nd Place that adjoined the parking lot, but not the short additional distance to reach the home at the end of the alleyway.
The work was completed on Nov. 5, 2016, with the parking lot connected to West 62nd Place. Company 1 spent approximately $81,534 to complete the work. Ewais paid $31,336 for the work and Company 1 did not request any further payment.
In designating the portion West 62nd Place adjoining his property to be repaved, Ewais avoided the established process for selecting streets to be resurfaced. The city, through a contractor, had sought to rate the condition of all the streets in Cleveland leading up to the 2016 resurfacing program. The city’s pavement management group, which included Ewais, met to discuss the lowest-rated streets in each ward to recommend to the City Council members which streets to include as part of the resurfacing program. The list of streets to be resurfaced never included West 62nd Place, which never even received a rating in the evaluation process.
Ewais, without the necessary approvals and authorizations, created a task order to have West 62nd Place, the small alleyway next to the Captain’s Grill parking lot, resurfaced. As a result of Ewais’s actions, the City of Cleveland paid a total for $10,938 to have West 62nd Place resurfaced.
In December 2017, Ewais lied to federal agents when he was questioned about the repaving of West 62nd Place, falsely claiming that a Cleveland City Councilperson had selected West 62nd Place to be repaved.
Khalil Ewais also filed numerous false tax returns in which he failed to report rental income.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General and the Cleveland Division of Police. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chelsea S. Rice and Elliot Morrison.