Bill Desvari, the embattled former chief building official in Lorain, died Saturday following an apparent heart attack at his home.
Desvari, 62, was taken to Southwest General Hospital, where he died around 7:25 p.m., according to Powell Caesar, spokesman for the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office. The death was ruled to have been from natural causes, and no autopsy was performed, Caesar said.
Brent English, Desvari’s longtime attorney, said his client has had heart problems.
Desvari was free on bond while awaiting sentencing on a federal charge of theft of government property for stealing $196,992 by cashing the Social Security checks of his deceased great-aunt between 1995 and 2010.
He also was awaiting trial on charges stemming from failure to pay taxes on that money and on corruption charges from his stormy tenure with the city of Lorain.
Desvari was first hired by the city in 2003 after stints at Building Departments in East Cleveland, Westlake and Brecksville. His hiring was later scrutinized because he listed a degree from an unaccredited university on his resume.
He also was charged with falsification for failing to disclose that he had prior felony convictions. Desvari insisted that he thought those convictions had been expunged and was acquitted of the charges.
During his time with the city, Desvari also came under fire for clashes with City Council members, his controversial decision to allow the removal of a fire escape on an apartment building that caught fire and his contribution to then-Mayor Craig Foltin’s failed congressional campaign in 2006.
Desvari’s most recent legal problems began in 2008 when Lorain police launched an investigation into his dealings as head of the city’s Building Department.
He was placed on leave in February 2008 as police probed complaints about problems with homes in the King’s Woods subdivision. That investigation expanded to include allegations that Desvari allowed an unlicensed cement contractor to operate in the city in exchange for the contractor doing work on Desvari’s Columbia Township home.
Desvari was indicted in July 2008 on charges dealing with the contractor and allegations that he failed to complete inspections and require permits on homes in New Century Village.
Another round of charges were brought in 2010 against Desvari that centered on two $5,000 loans Desvari received from men his attorney has described as friends. Prosecutors contend the loans were actually bribes.
Desvari and his wife, Diane Desvari, were indicted earlier this year on charges they didn’t pay state sales taxes on the Social Security money between 2006 and 2011.
English has said Diane Desvari had nothing to do with her husband’s theft of the Social Security money and only signed the tax returns she was given. He said he hopes prosecutors will drop those charges.
“I would find it particularly bad form to prosecute the widow of Bill Desvari at this time for something she absolutely didn’t do,” English said.
County Prosecutor Dennis Will said it’s too soon for him to say what will happen with the charges against Diane Desvari and Bill Desvari’s company, which also had faced criminal charges.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.