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Published: Saturday, 8/5/2006

Prosecutors link BWC brokers to thousands in gifts

BY JAMES DREW AND STEVE EDER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Gasper Gasper
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COLUMBUS - In addition to the use of a Florida condominium and boat slip, two Cleveland-area investment brokers gave thousands of dollars worth of meals, checks, and gifts to Terrence Gasper, the former chief financial officer of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, as well as people close to him and members of the bureau's investment staff, federal prosecutors said yesterday.

According to court documents, Michael W. Lewis and Daniel P. O'Neil provided meals and catering totaling $4,197 to Gasper, including $2,527 at the Worthington Inn, $1,122 at Katzinger's Deli, and $547 at the Refectory, a Columbus restaurant that features "classic and contemporary French cuisine" in a former 19th-century church building and schoolhouse. The meals took place from September, 1999, to September, 2004, including a $761 dinner at the Worthington Inn two weeks before Christmas in 2001.

The bill of particulars does not list those who attended the dinners and lunches, or provide details on $750 in checks that federal prosecutors say that Mr. Lewis wrote to Gasper's son, his daughter, and to the daughter of Gasper's former girlfriend, Betsy Ratcliff; and an undated $300 check from Mr. O'Neil to one of Ms. Ratcliff's daughters.

Mr. O'Neil and Mr. Lewis have pleaded not guilty to federal charges that they bribed Gasper in exchange for getting and keeping bureau investment business. Gasper, who was forced to resign from the bureau in 2004, has pleaded guilty to corruption charges. His sentencing was delayed because he is cooperating with authorities.

Prosecutors have said Mr. O'Neil and Mr, Lewis profited by at least $2.5 million through their bribery of Gasper.

Bill Beyer, the Cleveland attorney representing Mr. O'Neil, said last night he wanted to examine the "back-up documents" supporting what federal prosecutors allege.

"The $214 dinner, does that represent dinner just for Terry Gasper or represent dinner where there were three or four people there?" Mr. Beyer asked.

Benita Pearson, an assistant U.S. attorney, and Mr. Lewis' attorney could not be reached for comment.

In their filing yesterday, federal prosecutors also referred to Ms. Ratcliff as an "additional possible unindicted co-conspirator." Ms. Ratcliff testified in February before a federal grand jury in Cleveland.

Attorney G. Gary Tyack, who is representing Ms. Ratcliff, said he does not expect she will be charged.

"She has been upright and truthful since the beginning when she was asked about what she knew," Mr. Tyack said.

"She views it as an unfortunate chapter in her life and she wants to close it. That doesn't mean run from it; that means facing it and taking responsibility."

Mr. Tyack said the checks to Ms. Ratcliff's oldest daughter could have been for her wedding.

Ms. Ratcliff met Mr. O'Neil and Mr. Lewis through Gasper, and knew the two brokers had provided Gasper with use of the Florida Keys condominium, as well as the gifts, money, and other perks cited in the bill of particulars, according to Mr. Tyack.

In other court documents filed yesterday, attorneys for Mr. O'Neil and Mr. Lewis asked U.S. District Court Judge David Dowd, Jr., to require prosecutors to specify what information they will use in building their cases. The attorneys said prosecutors provided 11,000 pages of material that could be used during the trial.

Contact James Drew at:

jdrew@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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