Suspect pleads guilty in purchasing scandal

Pirko is the last of the vendors accused in the county purchasing probe.
WARREN -- Dennis Pirko, a former heating and air-conditioning repairman who overbilled Trumbull County about $3,500 and paid about $5,900 in bribes to a county official, has pleaded guilty to 13 charges for his role in the county purchasing probe.
Pirko, 57, of Gladstone Road, North Jackson, accepted the plea agreement Tuesday in the Trumbull County Common Pleas courtroom of Judge John M. Stuard. He will be sentenced in about 60 days, said Assistant Trumbull County Prosecutor Chris Becker.
Pirko could get probation or as much as 10 years in prison on the five felonies and eight misdemeanors. Becker said Pirko agreed to pay restitution of $3,500 for the amount he overbilled the county.
The five felonies are for failing to file state income tax returns for the five years investigated -- 1998 through 2002. The county sent Pirko 1099 forms for those years showing he had been paid about $204,000.
As part of the agreement, Pirko will also file amended tax returns for those years, Becker said.
Pirko pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of theft for double billings that cost the county about $3,500. He also pleaded guilty to six counts of bribery for writing checks to former county maintenance director Tony Delmont totaling $5,900, Becker said.
About the probe
Pirko's case is the last of the purchasing scandal cases prosecuted by the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office, Becker said. The prosecutions came after investigators discovered that vendors and Delmont had bilked the county out of $400,000 by overpaying for janitorial services and supplies.
Delmont, the central player in the scheme, took about $60,000 in bribes to facilitate the thefts, prosecutors say. He was sentenced to three years in prison and paid $60,000 in restitution for his role.
A hearing on whether he is healthy enough to report to prison is set for this Friday, Becker said. Delmont has cancer, and his doctors say he is too ill to report to prison, but the prosecutor's office has filed briefs disputing that.
With the prosecutions complete, Becker said he would expect Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigliucci, the special prosecutor investigating the role of elected officials in the scandal, to hold a press conference within 30 days to discuss his part of the case.
Becker has said Vigliucci would be watching the outcome of the cases handled by Trumbull prosecutors before discussing his part of the investigation. Vigliucci has refused to return calls on the matter.
Case against Pirko
Pirko, who said he had worked 24 years as a repairman on county boilers, was doing business as Northern Engineering.
He attended Tuesday's sentencing with his attorney, Don Hanni Jr., who said that Pirko was admitting the allegations contained in his indictment but that "mitigating factors" would have been presented to the court if the case had gone to trial.
Becker said Pirko has admitted that he gave Delmont the bribe money to keep doing business with the county. Becker said Delmont received bribe money from six checks Pirko wrote to cash between Aug. 6, 1998, and Aug. 13, 2002.
Becker said Pirko would also have maintained that someone added the words political contribution on the memo line of some of the checks later to make them look like political contributions.
A series of articles by The Vindicator uncovered the purchasing scandal and later determined that Pirko was not licensed to work on heating and air conditioning units after 1995, because his license had expired.

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