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White-Collar Crime

2 Lawyers Charged in Alleged Government Property Valuation Scheme

Posted Sep 22, 2009 12:05 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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For almost a decade, attorneys at Armstrong, Mitchell, Damiani and Zaccagnini in Ohio's Cuyahoga County helped government and commercial clients persuade the county's Board of Revision that the assessed valuations on which their property tax is based were too high.

The law firm was particularly expert at doing so, officials say, because one of the name partners had substantial control over the company that performed the appraisals for the county, V.A.S. Enterprises, and the law firm was closely involved in its administration, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Although that partner, Louis Damiani, died several years ago, two other partners, Timothy Armstrong and Bruce Zaccagnini, are facing federal conspiracy charges for allegedly helping to funnel $1.3 million in bribes to County Auditor Frank Russo and a top aide to win appraisal contracts for V.A.S. Enterprises, the newspaper reports.

The law firm allegedly made $8.9 million from V.A.S. Enterprises between 1998 and 2008. During the same period, the company received $21.4 million in appraisal contracts.

Former county Auditor Tim McCormack calls the law firm's dual role in overseeing both V.A.S. Enterprises and assessed valuation challenges at the Board of Revision "a blatant conflict of interest," the article states.

It doesn't include any comment from the law firm, which is no longer in business, or the defendants.

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