Monday, November 28, 2022

Two ex-East Cleveland cops hit with bribery charges as part of insurance fraud scheme

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A grand jury has charged two former East Cleveland police officers with taking cash bribes to provide a man with falsified police reports so he could commit insurance fraud, prosecutors said.

Von Harris, 52, and Demarkco Johnson, 28, were indicted Friday on multiple counts each of bribery and tampering with records, and one count of insurance fraud.

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The men’s arraignments are set for Wednesday, Sept. 28. Court filings do not list attorneys for them.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley’s office announced the indictment and said that an investigation remains ongoing.

The scheme occurred in the summer of 2018, and the case was investigated by the Cleveland Division of the FBI.

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Prosecutors said Harris and Johnson took three cash bribes from the man in June 2018. One of the bribes occurred outside the city’s police station while the officers were in uniform, prosecutors said.

The man paid the officers $200 each on June 13 and June 20, then a final $500 bribe on July 24, and the officers gave him falsified police reports each time, prosecutors said.

The man planned to use the reports to file a $10,000 insurance claim, prosecutors said.

The charges are the latest to taint the long-embattled department in this small, cash-strapped suburb. The department’s chief, Scott Gardner, was indicted last month on theft and tax-related charges. Gardner is on administrative leave pending the outcome of his case.

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Two other officers, Tyler Mundson and Brian Stoll, were charged last week with felony theft in office and misdemeanor counts of dereliction of duty and interfering with civil rights in connection with a March 31 incident. Those officers are set to appear for a Sept. 22 arraignment.

O’Malley’s office has refused to provide details of either of those cases, citing ongoing investigations.

Last year, Cuyahoga County sheriff’s deputies arrested two East Cleveland officers — Alfonzo Cole and Willie Warner-Sims — on felony theft charges. The two were accused of stealing about $5,000 from a man who was on his way to pay for his mother’s funeral when the officers pulled him over, Gardner told reporters last year.

They have not been charged in Common Pleas Court.

Johnson was featured in a series of stories last year by cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer on police chases in East Cleveland. The series reported in detail how officers chased suspects through the city’s three-square miles for minor offenses.

In the first four months of last year, Johnson led the department in pursuits, taking part in 31 chases, according to an analysis of police reports. Johnson left East Cleveland’s force and joined Euclid’s department in June 2021, records show.

Citing the indictment, Euclid police placed Johnson on administrative leave Friday.

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