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Government & Politics

Frank Russo, disgraced Cuyahoga County politician, has died

Dimora and Russo.png
U.S. Department of Justice
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Former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora and former Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo. Russo passed away April 2 at age 72.

Frank Russo, a longtime Cuyahoga County politician charged in one of the county’s largest corruption scandals, has died, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Russo's cause of death has not been confirmed. The 72-year-old had faced significant health issues in recent years while in federal prison, including heart disease and diabetes. He was released from prison in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns.

Russo was sentenced to federal prison in 2010 for his involvement with the infamous corruption scandal that changed the way county government is structured.

Federal prosecutors said Russo, his friend, former county commissioner Jimmy Dimora, and others accepted more than $1 million in bribes, gifts and trips in exchange for getting jobs and contracts for associates.

Dozens of other Cuyahoga County officials were convicted in the investigation, with Russo and Dimora determined to be at the helm. FBI agents raided Russo's home and office in 2008.

While Dimora went to trial in 2012, Russo struck a deal with federal officials and admitted to taking bribes. He was eventually granted a shortened prison sentence, from 22 years to 14, in 2019 for his cooperation with federal prosecutors.

Before the scandal, Cuyahoga County was governed by three commissioners. As a result of the corruption, voters replaced that system with a county executive and county council, hoping to ensure more public input on which contracts get approved by those in charge.

Russo’s involvement with the scandal overshadowed his long career in Cuyahoga County politics. He got his start as a Mayfield Heights councilman and eventually worked his way up through county government, first as recorder and eventually auditor.