Cleveland Business Owner Charged with Bribing City Officials
The owner of a business in Cleveland’s Lee-Harvard neighborhood was indicted for paying bribes to city officials in order to receive payment from a $25,000 city grant despite failing to achieve the equal opportunity employment goals required by the grant agreement, said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office.
Ashwani “Eddie” Adya, 49, of Solon, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud and one count of making a false statement to a law enforcement officer.
Adya operated a retail food and beverage business. Lawrence Payten worked at a nonprofit community organization that promoted commercial development in Cleveland’s Lee-Harvard neighborhood. Lejon C. Woods worked as a contract compliance officer in the City of Cleveland’s Office of Equal Opportunity.
Woods previously pleaded guilty to receiving bribes from three other businesses and a criminal case against Payten is pending.
Between November 2009 and August 2010, Adya paid cash bribes to Payten and Woods. Adya and the City of Cleveland entered into Neighborhood Capital Funds Grant Agreement as part of Adya opening a business in Cleveland’s Lee-Harvard neighborhood, according to the indictment.
The city awards funds for certain construction or rehabilitation projects and the recipients are subject to certain hiring goals. In this project, the Office of Equal Opportunity set a subcontractor participation goal of 15 percent for minority business enterprises, 7 percent for female business enterprises and 8 percent for Cleveland Area Small Businesses, according to the indictment.
Adya, Payten and Woods met at City Hall in November 2009. Adya and Payten told Woods that the businessman was not going to meet the OEO subcontractor guidelines and asked Woods to help them cover up the lack of compliance so the businessman could still receive the $25,000 Neighborhood Capital Funds disbursement, according to the indictment.
About two weeks later, Adya, Payten and Woods met again. Adya paid Woods $1,500, promised Woods an additional $1,500 and promised Payten $2,500 for facilitating the arrangement between Woods and the businessman, according to the indictment.
Woods then falsified the OEO compliance documents relating to the construction project. On August 20 2010, Adya received a NCF grant check for $25,000. Four days later, Adya gave Woods the additional $1,500, according to the indictment.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam Hollingsworth and Henry F. DeBaggis following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after a review of the federal sentencing guidelines and factors unique to the case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record (if any), the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation.
An indictment is only a charge and 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.