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OHIO JUDGE CANDIDATE ACCUSED IN MARIJUANA DEAL

A veteran prosecutor running for a judgeship near Cleveland faces a federal drug indictment in Buffalo, where he is accused of attempting to arrange a 1,000-pound marijuana deal.

Thomas Longo, 52, of Solon, Ohio, was scheduled to appear late this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie G. Foschio.

According to court papers, Longo is accused of being one of the financial backers last year of the marijuana deal. The U.S. attorney's office said the marijuana was to be sold by a Buffalo drug dealer to a Cleveland group that included Longo.

The dealer, however, turned out to be a Buffalo agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, who was running an undercover sting operation.

Longo is the prosecutor in Bedford, a city of about 15,000 residents, 10 miles east of Cleveland. Authorities said Longo also is a candidate for a municipal judgeship there.

One of his attorneys, William L. Summers, said Longo has been falsely accused by an informer trying to keep himself out of jail.

Furthermore, he said, Longo has no intention of dropping out of the judgeship race.

"He's absolutely innocent," said Summers, who represents Longo along with Buffalo attorney Paul J. Cambria Jr.

"Tom is one of the most respected prosecutors in this area. He's been a member of the bar for 25 years, a prosecutor for 20 years, and he's probably prosecuted 25,000 cases.

"His main accuser is a guy who has been married six times, in prison at least three times and gave the prosecution Tom Longo's name as his drug partner because he was trying to make a deal."

Assistant U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, who worked with DEA agents on the case, declined to comment late Monday on the circumstances of the indictment.

News of the indictment came as a shock to Bedford residents, who had come to know Longo as a law-and-order man.

"It's a shock. It's just not believable," said City Manager Vilas Gamble. "He's always been known as a law enforcement man. I have nothing but the highest regard for Tommy."

According to court papers, Longo and at least one other man conspired to buy 1,000 pounds of marijuana last year from a drug connection in Buffalo.

"The purchase price was supposed to be over $525,000, and (Longo) is accused of providing $130,000," said one law enforcement source. "He was a financier of the deal."

In March 1996, Longo and his partner reportedly traveled to Atlantic City, where they deposited $130,000 in checks in the bank at the Caesar's gambling casino; they then took $130,000 cash out of the casino for use in the drug deal, according to court papers.

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