CLEVELAND, OH (TIP): An Indian American East Cleveland businessman was sentenced Thursday, March 24 to a year in federal prison for trying to bribe a city councilman for help in getting a beer and wine license.
Mukundkumar Patel, the owner of McCall’s Motel on Euclid Avenue, did not make a statement before U.S. District Judge Christopher Boyko sentenced him. His attorney, Joseph Patituce, asked for a lighter sentence and said that Patel has lived an otherwise law-abiding life.
Boyko, against the wishes of Assistant U.S. Attorney Antoinette Bacon, gave a lower sentence than the two-and-a-half years that Patel faced in a plea agreement he reached in October. Boyko said he reduced the sentence because it appeared that Patel was not trying to obtain the license out of greed, but rather because of “business pressure.”
Boyko also fined Patel $10,000. He allowed Patel to self-report to prison.
Patel, 52, of Richmond Heights was charged in August. Court filings say he wanted to add a Convenience Food Mart to his business and needed the license in order to sell beer and wine.
He offered a bribe to City Council Vice President Thomas Wheeler, a former Cleveland police officer, who reported the offer to the FBI and helped agents with the investigation. Patel paid Wheeler $4,000 when the councilman showed up at his motel. What Patel did not know was that Wheeler was recording their conversation.
Bacon said Patel should have been wary of offering bribes because the city of East Cleveland and the county as a whole has seen dozens of corruption cases in the past decade.
She specifically cited Nate Gray, a former Cleveland-area powerbroker who is serving a 15-year prison sentence, in part because he bribed former East Cleveland Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor.
Wheeler survived a recall election in December.