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Cleveland councilman charged in $127K expense report scheme

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Cleveland councilman charged in $127K expense report scheme

A veteran Cleveland councilman was busted Tuesday on charges of bilking the city out of more than $127,000 over an eight-year span, federal prosecutors said.

Democrat Kenneth Johnson, who was elected in 1980, was arrested by FBI agents in Cleveland after a federal grand jury named him in a 15-count indictment with violations related to federal program theft, the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio announced Tuesday.

The indictment alleges that Johnson, 74, and two accomplices stole from the city coffers by getting reimbursement checks from its general fund for maintenance expenses in Ward 4 that were never performed.

Johnson and co-defendant Garnell Jamison, the councilman’s executive assistant of more than 20 years, first approached a city recreation employee, Robert Fitzpatrick, in 2010 and asked the worker to perform maintenance services like cutting grass, property checks and snow removal, according to the indictment.

Fitzpatrick, who pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme earlier this month, performed the duties for six weeks, but was never paid by Johnson nor Jamison, federal prosecutors said.

“Fitzpatrick did not perform any ward services after the initial six weeks and continued to receive his salary from the city,” prosecutors said in a statement.

But Jamison, 61, delivered timesheets to Fitzpatrick, who signed them even though the worker didn’t actually perform ward service past the initial six-week span, authorities said.

Jamison is accused of giving the timesheet to Johnson for his approval, which he submitted with his official council expense reports to be reimbursed. The councilman then allegedly requested the maximum reimbursement of $1,200 for each month of expenses between January 2010 and October 2018.

Each check was later deposited into a personal bank account owned by Johnson, totaling roughly $127,000, federal prosecutors said.

Johnson is facing charges including conspiracy to commit federal program theft, federal program theft, aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, witness tampering and falsification of records in a federal investigation.

“The allegations set forth in today’s indictment detail the exploitation of public office for personal gain,” Acting US Attorney Bridget M. Brennan said. “Such conduct may bring about a temporary financial benefit for those involved, but it harms the public’s confidence in its elected officials. Where an elected official is alleged to have disregarded their oath and obligations, the public should remain confident that we will not disregard ours.”

Johnson, one of the Cleveland’s longest-serving city council members, was elected in 1980, Cleveland.com reported.

Attempts to reach Johnson’s attorney were unsuccessful, the outlet reported Tuesday.

A third man, John Hopkins, who worked as the executive director of The Buckeye Shaker Square Development Corporation in Johnson’s ward, was also charged with conspiracy to commit federal program theft and federal program theft.

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Woman shot while dining outside Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills

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Woman shot while dining outside Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills

A woman was shot during an armed robbery outside a popular Beverly Hills Italian restaurant on Thursday afternoon, according to reports.

The victim was dining outside celebrity hotspot Il Pastaio restaurant when a trio of suspects targeted her companion’s $500,000 Richard Mille watch, TMZ reported.

A shooter opened fire, hitting the woman in the leg. The crooks fled with the man’s watch, the report said.

The gunshot victim was taken to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries, the Los Angeles Times reported.

A witness told the outlet that about three to four shots were fired. The gunfire sent other diners scrambling for cover.

The suspects fled and no arrests were immediately reported.

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Connecticut restaurants will soon reopen at 100% capacity

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Connecticut restaurants will soon reopen at 100% capacity

Connecticut will lift all coronavirus-related capacity limits on restaurants and other businesses in two weeks, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday.

The Nutmeg State is joining several others that have recently eased lockdown restrictions.

“I think Connecticut has earned it,” the Democratic governor said.

Starting on March 19, Connecticut’s retail stores, houses of worship, gyms, hair salons and other spaces will all be allowed to operate at 100 percent capacity.

Other changes include sports being allowed to resume, with indoor stadiums reopening at 10 percent capacity starting April 2.

Additionally, the state’s rule for incoming travelers, which included a 10-day quarantine, will now be an advisory rather than mandatory.

“You know it’s been tough and people have been frustrated,” Lamont said. “A lot of our businesses really suffered, and people took a hit… So I’ll tell ya. It feels pretty good.”

“It feels good that we’re able to do this.”

Some restrictions remain, including on eateries, which will still have to close their dining rooms at 11 p.m. and seat no more than eight people per table.

Bars that don’t serve food will not be allowed to reopen. Movie theaters and performing arts venues will still be limited to 50 percent capacity. Gatherings at private homes will be capped at 25 people indoors and 100 outdoors.

The state will also maintain some key measures, such as its mask mandate and social distancing rules.

The Republican governors of Texas and Mississippi recently announced they were doing away with their mask mandates.

Lamon said that “this is not Texas, this is not Mississippi. This is Connecticut.”

“We are maintaining the masks.”

With Post wires

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Biden tells NASA engineer Indian-Americans are ‘taking over the country’

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Biden tells NASA engineer Indian-Americans are 'taking over the country'

Joltin’ Joe is back.

President Biden on Thursday made one of his most head-turning comments since being sworn in when he told an Indian-American aerospace engineer that immigrants from the subcontinent are “taking over” the US.

“It’s amazing. Indian-descent Americans are taking over the country — you, my vice president, my speechwriter,” Biden told Swati Mohan, NASA’s guidance and controls operations lead for the Mars Perseverance rover landing.

Biden made the seemingly tone-deaf effort at levity before telling the NASA group that diversity in the US allows for the betterment of “every single solitary culture.”

The president said, “One of the reasons why we’re such an incredible country is we’re such a diverse country. We bring the best out of every single solitary culture in the world, here in the United States of America, and we give people an opportunity to let their dreams run forward,”

Biden, 78, concluded his webcast remarks by describing himself as “like a poor relative… when I’m invited, I show up. “

“So be careful. You know the poor relatives, they show up. They stay longer than they’re supposed to. I’m one of those kind of guys,” he said.

As a presidential candidate last year, Biden struggled with controversial remarks about ethnic minorities.

In May, Biden walked back comments telling voters they “ain’t black” if they supported a candidate other than him.

He said in August that Blacks are less diverse thinkers than Hispanics.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio humorously suggested Thursday that Biden should “seek training on unconscious bias” after he used the word “Neanderthal” on Wednesday to criticize Republican Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Tate Reeves of Mississippi, who ended COVID-19 mask mandates.

Vice President Kamala Harris’ mother was born in Chennai, India, and she’s the first non-white vice president since American Indian Charles Curtis, who held the office from 1929 to 1933.

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