13 Cleveland Firefighters indicted for theft and soliciting or - 19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|News, Weather, Sports

13 Cleveland Firefighters indicted for theft in pay scandal

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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -

13 Cleveland Firefighters have each been indicted on one count of theft in office, a felony of the third degree, and one count of soliciting or receiving improper compensation, a first degree misdemeanor.

It's the result of a story 19 Action News reporter Ed Gallek broke in 2011. Gallek revealed exclusively some firefighters get full pay and benefits though they rarely work. At the time, we were told they claim they're trading shifts, but they never work for anyone else.

In July 2011, an audit was conducted by the Cleveland Division of Internal Audit and subsequently turned over to the Internal Affairs Unit of the Cleveland Police Department.

The audit was conducted to assess the Cleveland Division of Fire's policies and procedures pertaining to personnel and payroll activities. Cleveland hired a former Federal Prosecutor as Special Investigator.

As a result of his investigation, it was discovered that these individuals paid their own co-workers for working shifts that were assigned to them. The audit revealed, from 2006 through 2010, that at a minimum, these thirteen firefighters each failed to work 2,000 hours (approximately one year) of their scheduled time. The most serious case was Calvin Robinson, who failed to work 8,456 hours (approximately 4 ½ years) of compensated time.

During this time period, the defendants received their yearly salary, health insurance, vacation and sick time, clothing allowance, and pension money all at a cost to the City of Cleveland.

These investigations uncovered the abuse of firefighters paying others to do their job for them which allowed each of these defendants to have a second full time job and earn two separate incomes. Shift trading is allowed under strict conditions.

Firefighters are permitted to trade one shift for another with approval by a supervisor who assures that the firefighter is not working multiple continuous shifts and is physically capable of performing under stress. By city rule, all shifts must be paid back within one year by re-working that shift. A firefighter cannot hire out his job or sell shifts as these defendants did.

These firefighters disregarded the rules by paying someone else tax-free cash under the table to do their work for them while they accumulated all the job benefits as if they had worked that year themselves. 

Prosecutor Tim McGinty said, "The public's trust was violated. In addition to not working and receiving full pay, these individuals abused the system and collected retirement, vacation, medical and other benefits. They caused other firefighters to work multiple days without rest. Fatigued firefighters put the safety of the people who are in danger at risk as well as their fellow firefighters."

This remains an ongoing investigation.

The following individuals were included in today's indictment:

  • Calvin Robinson, 52, of Cleveland
  • Kevin Dever, 42, of Cleveland
  • Bernard Fronhapple, 51, of Rocky River
  • Barry Kifus, 40, of Painesville
  • Kevin P. Kelly, 52, of Olmsted Falls
  • James Oleksiak, 44, of Cleveland
  • Robert Graham, 50, of Lakewood
  • Michael Milano, 53, of Broadview Heights
  • Nicholas Rucella, 49, of Cleveland
  • Gary McNamara, 48, of Bay Village
  • Peter Corso, 47, of Concord
  • Thomas Jurcisin, 51, of Cleveland
  • Daniel Losteiner, 45, of Cleveland
The Association of Cleveland Fire Fighters released the following statement:

"The Association of Cleveland Fire Fighters has become aware of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's review of an audit regarding the Cleveland Fire Department.
As the legal process moves forward, we expect to gain a greater understanding
of all the circumstances in this matter. We have been and will continue to
represent our members in all matters related to the terms and conditions of
their employment.  As always, Cleveland Fire Fighters remain united and committed to protecting the lives and property of the citizens, businesses and visitors of the City of
Cleveland."

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