Judge says no to pretrial detention
Greece will not extradite anyone who was born there, an FBI agent said.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
CLEVELAND -- The government's attempt to show that painting contractor Anthony Katsourakis would flee to his native Greece failed, and a federal judge denied pretrial detention in a bribery case.
Instead, U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster set a $1 million bond Wednesday for Katsourakis, 60, of Robinson Road, Campbell. The bond requires $250,000 in cash and the pledge of Katsourakis' house and another piece of real estate he owns in Campbell. The two properties are worth $500,000.
The judge noted that Katsourakis has $500,000 in a savings account, $1 million in an investment account and $1.5 million in property in Ohio, North Carolina and Florida.
As another bond condition, Judge Polster ordered that not only Katsourakis but his wife and four children surrender their passports to the court. Trial was set for March 6.
Katsourakis is charged with bribing an Ohio Department of Transportation bridge inspector with $24,000 and the use of a condo in Florida in return for substandard work on bridges west of Cleveland.
The charges, filed Aug. 26, are conspiracy to defraud the United States and filing fraudulent inspection reports with ODOT and two counts of bribery. His company, American Painting, is charged with conspiracy.
Richard H. Blake, an assistant U.S. attorney, argued in court Wednesday that Katsourakis is a flight risk because the evidence is overwhelming and the prison sentence will likely be 15 years.
"He has every reason to leave and no reason to stay," Blake told the judge. "He bribed an ODOT inspector who pleaded guilty in 2003 and who will testify against him."
Blake said it will cost nearly three times the original amount of the bridge contract to redo the work. The original ODOT contract was roughly $2.5 million.
FBI Special Agent Christine Oliver testified that Greek law prohibits extradition of anyone born there, and Katsourakis was born in Greece. She explained how easy it is to get to Greece from the United States through Canada and Europe -- even if one's passport has been revoked.
Katsourakis' Cleveland attorney, Gerald S. Gold, said in court that the government had "zero" to show that his client presented a flight risk. Gold pointed out that the investigation has been ongoing since 2003, and Katsourakis knew he would eventually be charged but didn't leave the country.
Blake said Katsourakis' wife has a house waiting in Greece and he cannot be brought back.
Gold said there's no evidence that Katsourakis has property outside the United States. The lawyer acknowledged that his client does have relatives in Greece.
Judge Polster, in denying pretrial detention, said Katsourakis has been aware for two years that the ODOT inspector pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and didn't flee. "If he wanted to go, he had ample opportunity to leave," the judge said.
Katsourakis' travel is restricted to Northeast Ohio, except for one trip to Michigan in the next month or so to check on the Mackinac bridge project. Judge Polster, in limiting travel to Michigan, said Michigan is close to Canada and he is reluctant to let Katsourakis travel more than once to Michigan.