Former engineer admits his guilt
Sentencing will be at 10 a.m. Nov. 17.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
CLEVELAND -- David Robison, a former Warren city engineer, expressed remorse in federal court Wednesday after changing his plea from innocent to guilty on 19 counts of mail fraud and one count each of extortion and racketeering, all felonies.
"I stand here humbly before you -- a broken man, admitting completely to my guilt on these charges," Robison, 52, of East Main Street, Cortland, said as he stood before U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr.
Robison added that he had "broken the public trust."
The government alleged that Robison took bribes and kickbacks from construction projects in Warren. After being indicted on 23 counts by a federal grand jury in January, Robison initially had pleaded innocent to the charges before U.S. Magistrate George Limbert in Youngstown.
In a 25-page plea agreement, signed by Robison, his lawyer, Thomas Schubert of Warren, and Assistant U.S. Atty. Matthew B. Kall, the government agreed to drop one count of conspiracy to violate the Hobbs Act and one count of extortion under the Hobbs Act.
In the plea agreement, both the prosecution and defense agreed on a likely sentencing range of 33 to 41 months in federal prison, but the actual sentence will be determined by Judge Oliver after a pre-sentence investigation. Judge Oliver set sentencing for 10 a.m. Nov. 17.
The maximum sentence on each count could be 20 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
In the plea agreement, Robison agrees to pay a special assessment of $100 per count for a total of $2,100 upon sentencing and to make restitution of $6,264 to the American Cancer Society, $4,907 to the city of Warren and $9,851 to Tony Joy, manager of the Avalon South Golf Course.
"I dishonored my fellow workers, the citizens of my community, my friends and my family," Robison said as several members of his family sat in the courtroom.
"My poor judgment in these matters has totally ruined me, and I would hope that the citizens of Warren would still have faith and respect for their public officials and work with them," he added. "I apologize to the court and the court officials for my actions."
The tall, lean, gray-bearded Robison wore a slate blue suit. He spoke extemporaneously as he stood with his lawyer facing the judge in the spacious 17th-floor courtroom in the Carl B. Stokes U.S. Courthouse.
After Robison entered his guilty plea, Schubert handed a reporter a prepared written statement saying that Robison has cooperated fully with government officials, accepts "the consequences of his conduct" and "looks forward to accepting and completing his sentence as determined by the court and to starting a new life."
Limbert had set a $20,000 unsecured bond, and Robison could not leave the area without court approval, and Judge Oliver continued that bond Wednesday. The case went to a grand jury after investigation by the Youngstown FBI office's public corruption task force.
Robison was accused of taking bribes and kickbacks for construction projects from the early 1990s through mid-July 2000. The scheme ripped off the city for demolition work and housing rehabilitation, among other items.
The government said contractors and entities paid bribes to Robison, with the help of James Lapmardo, a former Warren building inspector. Lapmardo, 49, of Perkinswood Drive Southeast, Warren, pleaded guilty last year to racketeering acts, including extortion, and received a prison sentence of three years and five months.
Also in January, Gregory G. Petrasek pleaded guilty to mail fraud, setting the stage for the former Ohio Edison manager to assist the government in its case against Robison.
Petrasek, 48, of Akron, pleaded guilty in January in U.S. District Court in Cleveland to filing a fraudulent insurance claim. Petrasek resigned more than two years ago from Ohio Edison.
Petrasek's 16-page plea agreement states that from June 30, 1999, to June 2002, he devised a scheme to defraud Erie Insurance Group, Westfield Companies, Avalon South Golf Club and OE and to obtain money by means of false and fraudulent pretenses and representations. At the time, the golf course was owned by Warren.
Petrasek's fraud was carried out with the help of Robison, the government said. Robison carried insurance with Westfield Companies; Petrasek with Erie Insurance Group.
Robison's golf clubs were stolen June 30, 1999, but Petrasek reported that his were also. They turned the thefts in to their insurance companies.
Robison ordered clubs worth $2,110 and Petrasek ordered clubs worth $2,469 from Avalon. The prices represented discounts of 20 to 25 percent, says Petrasek's plea agreement.
Erie paid Petrasek $4,384 and Westfield paid Robison $2,525.
When Avalon inquired about payment for the clubs, the golf course was given a $3,000 electric bill credit from Ohio Edison that Petrasek arranged. The golf course still had a balance due of $1,579 for the clubs.
Petrasek also arranged for a $640 OE credit to Robison's personal account.
Prosecutors said Robison devised a scheme to defraud the city, the Avalon South Golf Course manager and the American Cancer Society when he organized and promoted charity golf outings to benefit the ACS for six consecutive summers at Avalon South. Robison failed to pay greens fees or golf cart rental fees, deposited checks from outing participants into his personal bank accounts and sent only one payment to the ACS: $736 in 1998, prosecutors said.
By June 2002 the city had entered a payment plan for delinquent taxes on behalf of the golf course. The next month, James Nicolaus of T & amp;J Construction pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to bribing various city officials to get work from the city, "including the construction of the Avalon clubhouse," the court document states. He was sentenced to prison for a year and a day.