J. Kevin Kelley makes surprise appearance at sentencing hearing of bribery figure Michael Forlani

Kelley describes thousands in cash bribes

Akron,Ohio - The sentencing hearing for Cuyahoga County corruption figure Michael Forlani took a surprise turn with the appearance of J. Kevin Kelley, who described pocketing thousands in cash bribes from Forlani.

Kelley pleaded guilty to 11 corruption-related counts in a June 2009 plea agreement, where he promised to cooperate with federal investigators.

He has remained free on bond since because federal prosecutors said they need him ready to testify at corruption hearings like Forlani's and the trial last year of former Commissioner Jimmy Dimora.

Forlani has since moved to Florida.

In court, Kelley claimed to have received over several occasions envelopes stuffed with cash that he was told was from Forlani in exchange for steering contracts to Forlani's company.

Kelley served on the Parma Board of Education at the time, as well as a position within the Cuyahoga County Engineer's Office.

At one point, Kelley said he received a black legal folder stuffed with $20,000 in $100 bills that he was told was from Forlani.

Kelley said he received cash like that on six separate occasions -- four times with $10,000 cash and twice with $20,000 cash.

Government prosecutors are attempting to tally up the total value of the bribes Forlani paid as part of federal sentencing guidelines that would bring a higher prison sentence based on the dollar amount.

Under the guidelines, Forlani faces 5 to 8 years in prison.

Forlani's lawyers argued Friday that Kelley is simply inflating the value of the bribes as part of his own plea agreement that could result in a lighter sentence if Kelley provides "substantial cooperation" with federal prosecutors.

At one point, Kelley admitted that he had no"evidence" that the cash actually came from Forlani -- only that he was told it was provided by "MF" -- a shorthand used to describe Forlani.

The hearing continues Monday.

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