CLEVELAND - A search warrant shows that federal agents are looking into the investments and real estate of Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo, and one of the places agents raided on Monday was Russo's home, a Mayfield Village mansion.
When Russo spoke to reporters three days ago, he did it in front
of his 4,500-square-foot home known locally as the Fitzgerald
It is a massive home for the auditor, whose salary is $91,000 a year.
NewsChannel5 chief investigator Duane Pohlman dug into the real estate records provided by a licensed appraiser, which reveals the home's history.
In May 2006, the home was bought in a sheriff's sale for $355,000 by FSLA Cleveland. Then, less than a year later in April 2007, Russo bought it for $275,000.
An expert in short sales told Pohlman that the lower price Russo paid is not unusual.
At the same time, records show Russo received a conventional loan from Parkview Federal Savings and Loan for $175,000. Three months, later he had another loan from Parkview for $100,000; three months after that, a loan for $200,000.
And just two months ago, he received another loan from Parkview for $60,000.
That's more than $500,000 in loans a little more than a year.
The paperwork does not identify what was put up as collateral. However, since the loans are attached to the house, NewsChannel5 went further.
Since the auditor determines the values of properties in the county, Pohlman looked at the auditor's Web site, where Russo's home and property are listed as being worth $330,000 and carry a tax bill of just under $6,000 a year.
Sandy Capone, an employee of the auditor's office, explained that the assessed value listed in their records is based on the sale and does not yet reflect the true value, which will be adjusted by law in 2009.
NewsChannel5 tried to get a true picture of the value of Russo's home but all of the appraisers said that's impossible without getting inside.
Pohlman asked the auditor's office for a list of all of Russo's outside associations and income but was told that Russo and his office couldn't answer that because more of his personal and business documents were seized by federal agents.
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