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Former East Cleveland mayor charged for obstructing federal fraud, bribery investigation

Posted at 3:14 PM, Dec 15, 2020

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — A former mayor of East Cleveland and another city employee have been charged for allegedly interfering with a federal fraud and bribery investigation conducted by the FBI.

Gary Norton, who was East Cleveland’s mayor from 2006 until he was recalled in a special election in 2016, was charged with one count of obstruction of justice by the United States Attorney, according to charging documents filed Monday.

In May 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General initiated a federal grand jury investigation involving Norton and others in connection with allegations of fraud and bribery, the charging document states.

In September 2018, the FBI interviewed Norton in connection with the investigation and instructed him not to speak to anyone about their conversation, other than his attorney, authorities allege.

Later that day, Norton met with Vanessa Veals, an East Clevleand city employee, and told her about his interview and pending investigation, the document states. Veals is charged separately with obstruction of justice for her alleged role in interfering with the investigation.

When asked if he had spoken to anyone else about the investigation, Norton told FBI and the HUD-OIG agents that he had not.

In a separate charging document, Veals is also accused of modifying letters and forging the signature of another city employee in September of 2018.

As a result of Norton’s and Veals’s actions, the FBI and HUD-OIG were impeded in their ability to collect additional evidence in their investigation, the charging documents state.

Norton and Veals have waived their right to prosecution by indictment and have consented to prosecution by information, according to waivers of indictment obtained by News 5, essentially accepting a plea agreement with U.S. attorneys.

News 5 has reached out to Norton’s attorney, the current mayor of East Cleveland and an East Cleveland Council member for comment.