The Firms

September 23, 2009 7:25 PM

Vorys Sater Subpoenaed in Corruption Probe

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE: Oct. 3, 10:45 a.m. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that an attorney implicated in a long-running corruption investigation in northeast Ohio has plead guilty to a federal corruption charge. Prosecutors are seeking $3.2 million in restitution.

An expanding corruption investigation being conducted by federal law enforcement officials in Ohio has the FBI seeking documents from Columbus firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease.

The documents subpoenaed by the FBI relate to legal work the firm did for public officials in the Cleveland area implicated in a long-running corruption probe.

In a statement to The Am Law Daily, a firm spokeswoman said that neither the firm nor any of its 350 attorneys are under investigation. She confirmed that Anthony Calabrese III, a former Vorys Sater corporate partner in Cleveland, was placed on leave in February and is "no longer associated with the firm in any capacity."

Although Calabrese has not been charged with any crime, on Friday federal prosecutors filed criminal information against two name partners from now-defunct Cleveland firm Armstrong, Mitchell, Damiani & Zaccagnini, accusing them of funneling $1.3 million in bribes to a Cuyahoga County auditor to win business.

Timothy Armstrong and Bruce Zaccagnini face federal conspiracy charges for participating in a kickback scheme in which the firm represented both sides of commercial property appraisals between school districts and property owners.

"This is an extensive investigation that began in July 2008," says first assistant U.S. attorney William Edwards in Cleveland. "And it's going to take awhile longer to unwind. We just have to do it right."

Edwards wouldn't say whether Calabrese's resignation was related to the investigation. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, however, has already made the connection. In a series of stories about the probe, the newspaper reports that at least six of Calabrese's former clients have been implicated in the alleged corruption scheme.

Last week former Baker & Hostetler partner Steven Dettelbach was sworn in as the new U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. Edwards says Dettelbach has recused himself from the ongoing investigation because he has represented individuals in the case.

Next week Vorys Sater associate Carter Stewart will be sworn in as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio in Columbus.

According to Am Law 200 financial data, Vorys Sater had gross revenues of $155 million in 2008, with profits for each of the firm's 168 equity partners at $420,000.

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