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WARREN Vienna builder faces sentence



Published: Fri, September 14, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The company also handled several other city jobs.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- A Vienna-based contractor will be sentenced in January in federal court for agreeing to pay $5,000 to a city official to secure a demolition contract on the Hotel Regency.

James Matash, 39, of Centennial Drive pleaded guilty earlier this week in U.S. District Court in Cleveland to a charge of interference with commerce by threat or violence.

He appeared Monday before U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells for a final pretrial conference. A trial was set to begin later this month.

Matash, owner of M & amp;M Demolition Inc., will be sentenced at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 3. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Innocent pleas: He pleaded innocent to a charge of extortion and a charge of program fraud during arraignment in April after a federal grand jury indictment.

He has been free on a $50,000 bond, and neither he nor his lawyer was available Thursday. Court officials also were unable to give the disposition of the additional charges.

M & amp;M has handled many Warren jobs, including demolition of the hotel on U.S. Route 422, which was destroyed by fire in 1999. Authorities have said arson was the cause.

Who is the official? The indictment did not identify the Warren official to whom the money was offered, and the city administration has declined to release that information, saying only that the building official no longer works for the city.

Mike Overton, a former city employee, has a problem with that.

He says the person's name should be released.

Overton, 42, of Warren, retired as a city building inspector in 1999, after a serious car accident.

The city's engineering, building and planning department differentiates between job titles of building inspector and building official, ranking the building official ahead of the other.

Overton said a few acquaintances he has run into recently have acted differently toward him.

"Some of them are being stand-offish," Overton said. "I know what they're thinking, but it's not me."

Mayor Hank Angelo confirms the unidentified official is not Overton, who the mayor said left on good terms and was a good worker.

In the past year, the FBI has taken numerous sets of city records from departments including community development, the auditor's office and engineering, building and planning.

The FBI has extended its probe in Warren, seeking documents related to building and construction projects, including those involving the Hotel Regency and other projects M & amp;M worked on.

M & amp;M's demolition contract for the hotel was for $108,421.

A portion of the demolition's cost, $83,421, was paid for with a federal Community Development Block Grant.

Against: City council at that time voted against using CDBG money for the project but was told the formal bidding process was bypassed and M & amp;M was already paid because the site was deemed a safety hazard.

Matash was fired in 1996 as equipment operator with the city water department. He was convicted in October 1996 of three misdemeanor counts of receiving stolen property, and authorities said he and others planned and facilitated thefts on city time.

davis@vindy.com




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