Former head of Cleveland’s demolition department charged with soliciting and accepting bribes from contractors
The former head of the City of Cleveland’s demolition department was charged in federal court with soliciting and accepting bribes from contractors in exchange for preferential treatment.
Rufus Taylor, 60, was charged in a criminal information with one count of bribery in a federally funded program and one count of extortion.
According to the criminal information filed in U.S. District Court:
Taylor was employed by the City of Cleveland as Chief of its Demolition Bureau. He was responsible for assigning “board-up” of vacant properties to contractors, emergency demolition jobs, and conducting inspections, which had to take place before a contractor could be paid, among other duties.
Taylor and a person identified in the charges as Contractor 1 met in November 2013 to discuss a demolition job on Parkwood Drive. The two agreed that Contractor 1 would pay Taylor $8,000 in cash in return for Taylor putting Contractor 1 on the bid list.
Contractor 1 was awarded the bid. Contractor 1 gave Taylor approximately $3,000 in cash on Dec. 4, 2013. Contractor 1 paid Taylor the additional $5,000 by November 2015.
Taylor notified Contractor 1 about an emergency demolition job on East 123rd Street and Coltman Road around October 2015. Taylor asked Contractor 1 for $12,000 in exchange for notifying Contractor 1 about the job.
Contractor 1 was awarded abatement work for the premises but never paid Taylor the $12,000.
Taylor provided bid numbers to Contractor 2 for a pending demolition job on Cedar Avenue around Aug. 20, 2015. Contractor 2 paid Taylor approximately $5,000 in cash in exchange for this information around Oct. 26, 2015.
On May 7, 2016, Taylor provided Contractor 2 the names of companies bidding on a demolition job on East 130th Street. On May 10, 2016 – the last day of the bid – Taylor called Contractor 2 and informed Contractor 2 of the then-current lowest bid on the project.
Contractor 2 gave Taylor approximately $500 in cash on May 25, 2016. Taylor contacted Contractor 2 on July 21, 2016 and said he needed some “stacks.” Contractor 2 gave Taylor approximately $300.
U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said: “Public contracts should go to the most qualified bidder, not the best connected. We will remain vigilant and public employees who take bribes will be brought to justice.”
“Our citizens are entitled to decisions based on the best interests of the public, not the best interests of corrupt public officials and bribe-paying contractors,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony said. “The FBI is committed to ensure that those that violate the public trust are held accountable.”
“The charges disclosed today prove our continuing resolve to root out fraud and corruption in all forms, especially when the programs involved should have been used to help our neediest families,” said Brad Geary, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General. “It is our continuing core mission to work with our Federal law enforcement partners and the United States Attorney’s Office to protect the integrity of our housing programs and to take strong action against those who seek to personally benefit from taxpayer-funded grants.”
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations.
It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea S. Rice and Elliot Morrison.
If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the Court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant's role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.
A charge is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.