City Hall supervisor sentenced to 18 months in prison for extortion, bribery, and other crimes
A City of Cleveland employee was sentenced to 18 months in prison for extortion, bribery, and other crimes after he accepted below-market improvements on his property from a city contractor he supervised and directed city projects to benefit himself. He was also ordered to pay restitution to the City of Cleveland and the Internal Revenue Service.
Khalil Ewais, 44, previously pleaded guilty to Hobbs Act extortion, receipt of a bribe, federal program theft, making false statements and filing false tax returns.
Ewais worked in the Mayor’s Office of Capital Projects (“MOCAP”) as the construction Section Chief in the Engineering and Construction division. 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 his brother 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.
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.
In August 2016, Ewais 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. Another contractor that Ewais supervised as part of the residential streets project declined to bid.
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.
In causing the city to pay for repaving most of West 62nd Place, 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.
The parking lot 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 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.
Ewais also filed false tax returns in which he failed to report all of his income from his rental properties.
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 was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chelsea S. Rice and Elliot Morrison.