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Published: Friday, 5/15/2009

Ex-Dann aide indicted for theft

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - One year to the day that his boss resigned in disgrace, Anthony Gutierrez, a former aide to then-Attorney General Marc Dann, a Democrat, was indicated yesterday on 10 counts of theft, fraud, and other charges for allegedly using his office to benefit himself financially.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said the announcement of the six felony and four first-degree misdemeanor counts against Mr. Gutierrez was not timed to coincide with the anniversary.

"It's probably more coincidence than anything else," he said.

Mr. Gutierrez is accused of various counts of theft in office, misuse of government property, padding his income through condo rent illegally paid by Mr. Dann's campaign committee, workers' compensation fraud, and failure to disclose his connection to a private construction firm in ethics disclosures.

Sam Amendolara, Mr. Gutierrez's Youngstown attorney, could not be reached for comment.

The indictments mark the first criminal action taken against anyone connected to the multiagency investigation of Mr. Dann's office that followed allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Gutierrez.

Mr. O'Brien declined to discuss whether additional indictments could be forthcoming against Mr. Dann or others, but said these indictments are likely the end of charges against Mr. Gutierrez from his office.

Possible charges are pending in Trumbull and Mahoning counties related to allegations Mr. Gutierrez padded bills paid by Mr. Dann's campaign committee for security windows at Mr. Dann's Youngstown-area home and redirected the extra money to three businesses to which Mr. Gutierrez's private construction business owed money.

Mr. Gutierrez, who served as Mr. Dann's general services director, is expected to turn himself in on Monday.

Mr. O'Brien said he had cooperated with the investigation, but stressed no plea deal was struck. The prosecutor expects Mr. Gutierrez to enter a plea of not guilty and to be released on bond pending trial.

If convicted on all charges, Mr. Gutierrez faces a maximum of eight years in jail and $20,000 in fines, said Mr. O'Brien.

Mr. O'Brien did not speak with Mr. Dann as part of the investigation. The Ohio Ethics Commission tried to interview Mr. Dann before it referred its allegations to Mr. O'Brien for possible prosecution.

"There were attempts to talk to both Mr. Dann and his spouse," Commission Executive Director David Freel said. "He said he would respond only to written questions. That is not the ordinary process the commission engages in."

Mr. Dann resigned last year under pressure from Republicans and fellow Democrats in the wake of the harassment scandal. Mr. Dann admitted at the time that he feared his own extramarital affair with his office scheduler may have set a poor example.

The former attorney general has so far faced no criminal charges. In March, he was fined $1,000 and given a public reprimand by the Ohio Elections Commission for illegally mining campaign funds to finance a $40,000-plus security system for his home as well as personal cell phone use for him and his family.

The panel chose not to refer that case to Mr. O'Brien for possible criminal prosecution, but it is expected next month to examine more serious allegations of misspent funds against Mr. Dann; his wife, Alyssa Lenhoff; former press secretary Leo Jennings, and campaign committee Deputy Treasurer Mary Beth Snyder.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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