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Former Cleveland demolition bureau chief pleads guilty to extorting, accepting bribes from contractors

September 4, 2018

Former Cleveland demolition bureau chief pleads guilty to extorting, accepting bribes from contractors

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The city of Cleveland’s former demolition bureau chief admitted Tuesday to soliciting and accepting thousands of dollars in bribes from contractors in exchange for a leg up in obtaining city jobs.

Rufus Taylor pleaded guilty to extortion and bribery in a federally funded program.

The 60-year-old, who retired from the city in January after working there city for 30 years, gave preferential treatment to two contractors in exchange for information about upcoming projects for demolition and abatement. He and the contractors agreed to take bribes in exchange for the information, and Taylor received cash over several years, authorities say.

Taylor was charged Aug. 24.

The federal government has not identified the contractors.

Taylor listened as U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Parker read a portion of his plea agreement that detailed his conduct. When Parker asked him if it was accurate, Taylor replied, “it’s true.”

His attorney Michael Peterson said after the hearing that Taylor’s plea agreement would likely lead him and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to recommend a sentence of between 37 and 46 months in federal prison. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Rice said at the hearing that the government would also recommend a fine of $3,925, which is already in the FBI’s possession.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Boyko will sentence Taylor on Dec. 18. Parker released Taylor, a Cleveland resident, on bond and ordered him not to speak to any potential victims or co-defendants in the case.

The plea hearing came after Parker, Taylor and the attorneys held a lengthy sidebar, in which white noise was played to drown out their conversation.

Peterson declined to comment on anything else about the plea agreement.

Prosecutors say Taylor and “Contractor 1” met in November 2013 to discuss a demolition job on Parkwood Drive. They agreed that the contractor would pay Taylor $8,000 in cash in return for Taylor putting the contractor on the bid list, authorities say.

The contractor won the bid on Nov. 12, 2013, gave Taylor $3,000 in cash in December 2013 and $5,000 between November 2013 and November 2015, according to charging documents.

Taylor also told the contractor about an emergency demolition job on East 123rd Street and Coltman Road in October 2015 and asked the contractor for $12,000. The contractor won abatement work but never paid the bribe to Taylor, authorities say.

Then, with a second contractor, Taylor provided bid numbers for a demolition job on Cedar Avenue in August 2015. That contractor submitted the lowest bid, won the job and later paid Taylor $5,000, authorities say.

Taylor also provided the same contractor the names of companies bidding on a demolition job on East 130th Street on May 7, 2016. Three days later, on the last day the city accepted bids, Taylor called the contractor and told them of the then-lowest bid, prosecutors say.

It was not clear whether the contractor won that job. However, the contractor gave Taylor $500 about two weeks later, officials say.

Taylor reached out to the contractor again about two months later and said he needed some “stacks,” prosecutors say. The contractor gave Taylor $300.

Court records show Taylor has had financial troubles for several years. He filed for bankruptcy in 2012, listing more than $75,000 in unsecured debt. A bankruptcy judge discharged his debts in December, records show.

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