LORAIN — Sandy Prudoff is out of jail, but his legal problems persist.
The former head of the city’s now-defunct Community Development Department was released from federal prison in Morgantown, W.Va., on Monday according to Ed Ross, a Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman. Prudoff served about 21 months of a two-year sentence after being convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, providing false statements to law enforcement and filing a false tax return. The convictions were related to influence peddling by the 71-year-old Prudoff, a longtime director who retired under pressure in 2009. Prudoff was released 94 days early due to good behavior.
However, Prudoff still faces state charges in Cuyahoga County of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and two counts of conspiracy. Prudoff, who has pleaded not guilty, is accused of taking $164,000 in bribes from now-convicted Cleveland attorney Anthony Calabrese III for phantom consulting work for a Cleveland halfway house.
In exchange, Prudoff is accused of convincing former Mayor Craig Foltin to hire Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease, Calabrese’s firm, to do city work. The firm in November agreed to a $3 million settlement with Lorain to avoid a lawsuit.
Despite the federal convictions and the settlement, Prudoff’s attorney John Ricotta contends his client is getting railroaded by state prosecutors. In a May 14 filing, Ricotta wrote that prosecutors cannot explain how the alleged bribery continued after Foltin left office and was succeeded by Mayor John Romoser in 2007 and Mayor Tony Krasienko in 2008.
“Is the state alleging Mr. Prudoff somehow controlled all the mayors, from two different political parties, along with the auditor and (City) Council to perpetuate this scheme?” Ricotta wrote. “Second, the allegation that Prudoff personally signed 68 vouchers for $1.3 million to Calabrese’s firm is disingenuous at best, and
certainly not true and merely supposition and innuendo on the part of the state.”
While Ricotta wants the case dropped, Mayor Chase Ritenauer said Tuesday he wants it to continue. In addition to the settlement, Ritenauer merged the department into the Department of Building, Housing and Planning and in September.
However, Ritenauer said the damage Prudoff did to the reputation of city employees and federal programs designed to help residents is still being restored.
Despite the federal convictions, Ritenauer said questions remain about Prudoff’s actions.
“There’s a lot more that needs to be answered about the malicious intent with which a lot of the programs and deals were put together during his tenure,” Ritenauer said. “I want to get into the core functions of this job and how he used his position for personal gratification.”