KIRTLAND, OHIO – A Kirtland couple has pleaded guilty in federal court to bribery of a former city of Cleveland demolition official in return for favorable service and treatment with building demolition projects.
Joseph Tucceri, 75, and Gwen Tucceri, 60, pleaded guilty to a Bill of Information charging them with honest services mail fraud, honest services wire fraud, bribery in federally funded programs and making and subscribing false income tax returns.
According to court records, the Tucceris owned and operated “R Demolition,” a business that provided demolition and construction services in the Cleveland area. From December of 2016 through May of 218, the Tucceris provided things of value, including more than $1,600 in cash payments, to Rufus Taylor, the former Chief of the Demolition Bureau for the city of Cleveland, in return for expedited service and favorable treatment regarding work performed by R Demolition on contracts within the city of Cleveland.
Specifically, the Tucceris made payments to Taylor in exchange for officials acts such as expedited service on demolition inspections and permits that were required for them to receive payment on a demolition contract. In addition, the Tucceris paid Taylor with the intent to influence his advice, which would form the basis for acts by other public officials that would ultimately benefit the Tucceris. As a result of their scheme, the Tucceris were able to obtain faster payments for demolition jobs, which gave them a competitive advantage over their competitors by allowing a quicker transition to additional contracts.
For example, according to the charges in the Bill of Information, , on or about May 19, 2017, Gwen Tucceri and Taylor had a phone conversation in which they discussed their arrangement, with Gwen stating that “we appreciate you,” and that she would “take care of everything I owe you for” when they next met. Taylor responded that he was grateful for “whatever you do to show your appreciation.” On or about May 22, 2017, the Tucceris met with Taylor and paid him $150 in return for favorable treatment on an inspection for one of their demolition projects and continued favorable treatment.
During that meeting, the Tucceris and Taylor also discussed a financial arrangement that involved Taylor repaying the Tucceris for a loan with favorable demolition inspections. Taylor asked, “we good [am I paid off now]?” Gwen agreed, and Taylor stated, “Now we just keep it moving [continue exchanging bribes for favorable treatment].” Gwen repeatedly stated, “We appreciate you.” Taylor thanked Joseph for the payment and said that they would “continue to handle our business,” with Gwen replying, “I’ll take care of you with the other stuff [pay you for the other upcoming inspections].”
Additionally, for the calendar year of 2016, Joseph and Gwen Tucceri both pleaded guilty to submitting a false income tax return that failed to report their full amount of income from all sources. As a result, the return understated the full amount of taxes owed.
Rufus Taylor pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with bribery in federally funded programs and extortion under color of official right in September of 2018. Taylor is set to be sentenced on June 2, 2021.
This case was investigated by the Cleveland Division of the FBI, Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General and IRS-Criminal Investigation. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Chelsea S. Rice and Elliot D. Morrison.