Bill Desvari, Lorain’s former chief building official, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to a charge of theft of government property for continuing to cash the Social Security checks of his deceased great aunt for 15 years after she died, according to prosecutors.
Between 1995 and 2010, Desvari raked in $196,992 in funds that he wasn’t entitled to, according to court documents.
Mike Tobin, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney for Northern Ohio Steven Dettelbach, said Desvari had power of attorney for his great aunt.
Tobin said he couldn’t discuss how U.S. Social Security Administration investigators learned that Desvari was receiving benefits for a dead woman. But he said Social Security fraud is a fairly common crime.
“The Social Security Administration has investigators that routinely are scouring through records and looking for this sort of thing,” Tobin said.
Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said the Social Security case has nothing to do with a long-running corruption case against Desvari the stems from his time running Lorain’s Building Department.
Desvari, 61, was suspended in February 2008 from his job with the city after police began investigating complaints about problems with homes in the King’s Woods subdivision, but that probe quickly expanded.
Desvari, who retired shortly after being indicted, was first indicted in July 2008 on bribery and dereliction of duty charges that stemmed from work that a Lorain cement contract did on Desvari’s Columbia Township home between 2004 and 2007.
Prosecutors contend that in exchange for the work on his house, Desvari allowed the contractor to operate in the city without a license.
The charges against Desvari also accuse him of failing to seek permits and complete inspections on homes built in the New Century Village residential project.
Additional charges of bribery, money laundering and soliciting or receiving improper compensation were filed against Desvari and his company, Desvar Co. Inc., in 2010 and according to Desvari’s attorney center on two $5,000 loans Desvari received from two friends.
The attorney, Brent English, has said his client never took a bribe from anyone.
Will said Desvari is due in Lorain County Common Pleas Court again next month and in the meantime the investigation into Desvari’s activities is continuing.
English did not return a call seeking comment. Desvari remains free on bond and is due to be sentenced in federal court next year.