CLEVELAND - Cuyahoga County tax dodgers are about to find themselves in big trouble, as County Executive Ed FitzGerald and Fiscal Officer Wade Steen have announced a campaign to crack down on the "Dirty Dozen” delinquent taxpayers.
Steen said the “Dirty Dozen” have dodged large tax bills for years.
“They’re pretty much the worst of the worst,” said Steen.
A review of records shows the "Dirty Dozen” each owe the county between $341,120 and more than $2.1 million.
A 5 On Your Side investigation found the “Dirty Dozen” includes a Florida-based shopping center developer, a Cleveland church and a former Burger King franchise owner.
Shopping center developer John McGill tops the list. The Jupiter, Florida resident owes Cuyahoga County $2,117,606 on five parcels of property at the intersection of Pearl Road and Maplewood Road in Parma Heights.
McGill is followed by the 3420 E. 93rd St. Company which owes $912,269 on a vacant parcel of property on E. 93rd Street in Cleveland.
Fred Finley, who owned the recently demolished Cleveland Cold Storage building on West 14th Street, is also a member of the “Dirty Dozen.” Finley owes $792,300.
Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Cleveland is number four on the "Dirty Dozen” list. The church owes the county $653,048 on a vacant property it owns one block north of its 3290 E. 126th Street location.
5 On Your Side Investigator Sarah Buduson repeatedly asked the church for a comment on the tax bill. Deacon Brian Collins told her, “I have no information on that,” although a receptionist told NewsChannel5 to speak with Collins about the bill.
The church’s other deacon, Inez Killingsworth, drove off in her car when Buduson attempted to question her about the bill.
Other members of the “Dirty Dozen” were willing to answer questions.
Michael McDaniel, who is sixth on the “Dirty Dozen” list, said he is sorry he hasn’t paid Cuyahoga County his $459,078 tax bill. McDaniel blamed a fire at the Ramada Inn he owns on Rockside Road in Bedford Heights for his unpaid taxes.
“We were not compensated and we just could not pay it,” said McDaniel. “We’re hoping the property does get sold so that the taxes can get paid.”
Beachwood businessman Kenneth Lurie was unapologetic about his $447,922 tax bill for dozens of parcels on Miles Road in Warrensville Heights.
“It’s in foreclosure. It was foreclosed on by the bank and I am not the owner of this any longer,” he said.
County officials told NewsChannel5 Lurie is still responsible for the bill. Lurie abruptly walked away when 5 On Your Side Investigator Sarah Buduson questioned him about his unpaid taxes.
Other members of the “Dirty Dozen” include Michael Eanes, a former Burger King franchise owner who now lives in Georgia, and Damon Frangos, who owns an apartment building on E. 9th Street in Cleveland.
Eanes owes $459,078; Frangos owes $347,897.
Steen said the county has already started taking action against members of the “Dirty Dozen” and other tax dodgers. He said the county will offer payment plans to delinquent taxpayers, but will seize and sell their property if they do not begin paying what they owe the county.
Steen said Cuyahoga County has the largest amount of unpaid taxes in Ohio. He said taxpayers here owe more than $400 million in back taxes and feesand that the prior county administration did not focus on collecting unpaid taxes.
“We got a little lax,” said FitzGerald. “We started to accept that we had to be one of the worst in the state in terms of collecting this and we don’t accept that any longer.”
Check out photos of all of the Dirty Dozen by clicking on the photo gallery above (feature not available on mobile).
Watch this investigation tonight at 11 p.m. on NewsChannel5.
Join the conversation about this story on Twitter using the #WEWStax hashtag. Investigator Sarah Buduson wants to hear your questions and opinions on the “Dirty Dozen.” You can find her on Facebook at facebook.com/SarahBudusonWEWS and @SarahBuduson on Twitter.
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