Federal lawsuit alleges Cuyahoga County Land Bank Unconstitutionally Seized Properties without Compensation or Authorization


The Cuyahoga County Land Bank seized Tony Viola’s personal home without compensation, while the FBI claimed Tony’s house was subject to “forfeiture.”  However, no court ever issued any order allowing the seizure or ruled that the Land Bank was entitled to a free house. 

Multiple criminal defendants throughout Cuyahoga County were prosecuted by a multi-jurisdictional Mortgage Fraud Task Force and accused of duping banks including JP Morgan and Citigroup into making ‘no money down’ mortgage loans.  These individuals were pressured to surrender homes or commercial real estate to the Land Bank to resolve criminal cases, and many agreed.   However, Tony never pled guilty to any charges, never agreed to forfeit any property, and was never ordered by any court to forfeit any property.  Moreover, following a federal conviction, Tony was exonerated at a second trial using evidence not produced by Prosecutors Mark Bennett and Dan Kasaris prior to his first trial.  That evidence – including FBI interviews with bank executives, written underwriting approvals confirming banks knowingly approved all loan terms and internal bank documents proving lenders offered and promoted ‘no money down’ loans – is not specific to Tony’s case and likely undermines all convictions obtained by the Task Force.  Also, following Tony’s second trial, both the FBI and Department of Justice admitted making false statements about evidence in his case.

Following the second trial, an investigation into the collection and disbursement of restitution in criminal cases confirmed that the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office and the US Attorney in Cleveland collected over $15 million in restitution, while the Land Bank seized tens of millions of dollars in real estate.  But prosecutors never remitted one cent to crime victims and – according a ledger of restitution disbursements attached to the recent law suit -- utilized funds collected in mortgage fraud cases to pay for airline tickets, hotel rooms, laptop computers for prosecutors and even made payments to current Senior Assistant Ohio Attorney General Daniel Kasaris, listed as “KasDan” on the ledger. 

“We’re going to find out how the Land Bank took ownership of my house without paying one cent to anyone,” said Tony Viola.  “The government’s actions throughout my criminal case are a catalog of misconduct – hiding evidence, utilizing perjured testimony in federal court, a romantic relationship between Dan Kasaris and government witness Kathryn Clover, illegal voice recordings to obtain defense trial strategy information, the destruction of computers, Mark Bennett’s cover-up of the Kasaris-Clover affair, undisclosed payments to informants, and now, the diversion of restitution payments and seizing property without a court order.”

The lawsuit – and supporting documents mentioned in this blog -- was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Viola v. Cuyahoga County Land Bank, et. al., Case Number 1:21-cv-1196.   To view the lawsuit, kindly consult the federal court’s PACER system, or visit the FreeTonyViola.com Evidence Locker.

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