Ohio businessman caught in Spain sentenced to 70 months for defrauding Cuyahoga Heights schools

The Plain Dealer | Eric Heisig

A former Broadview Heights man was sentenced Tuesday to nearly six years in federal prison for his role in defrauding the Cuyahoga Heights School District out of millions of dollars.

David Donadeo, 43, worked with other people to form companies that conspired with former school district technology director Joseph Palazzo. They billed the district for services that were never provided, and the school district lost more than $3.3 million.

He was indicted in 2013 but had fled to Europe when he found out about IRS and FBI investigations into the scheme in 2011, prosecutors wrote in court filings. He was arrested by Spanish authorities at a border crossing in September 2016 and was brought back to the U.S. and arraigned in May.

He pleaded guilty in April to mail fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson, as part of Donadeo’s sentence, ordered him to pay $2.6 million in restitution. She also recommended that he be treated for alcohol abuse while in prison, said John McCaffrey, Donadeo’s attorney.

Donadeo and others formed shell companies that billed for and received money for services it never provided to the small suburban district, located about seven miles south of Cleveland. Palazzo would submit the invoices the district, authorities say.

He and the others kept half the money for themselves, while the other half went to Palazzo, who approved false invoices or forged the signature of another school district employee, according to prosecutors.

One of the two companies that prosecutors say were directly associated with Donadeo was Impact Global Network, which operated The Jump Yard, a children’s recreation and party center in North Royalton. The company is now under new ownership.

The scheme was uncovered by the Ohio Auditor’s Office in 2012. Auditor Dave Yost said at the time that the stolen amount was “one of the largest findings for recovery” that his office has ever issued.

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