WASHINGTON Feds ask for Traficant documents
By DAVID SKOLNICK
and PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS
YOUNGSTOWN -- Federal prosecutors issued the first subpoena related to the criminal investigation of U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. since the congressman's May 4 indictment on charges of racketeering, bribery and tax evasion.
Kathy A. Wyszynski, associate administrator of human resources for the U.S. House's Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, wrote the Speaker of the House that she received a June 19 subpoena for documents issued by the U.S. District Court's Northern District of Ohio, which is handling Traficant's case.
Wyszynski's letter did not say what the documents were. The House Office of the Chief Administrative Officer is responsible for maintaining office management, financial, employment and other information records for members of Congress.
Records wanted: A source familiar with the Traficant investigation and Roll Call, a Capitol Hill publication, say the subpoena seeks the employment and other financial records for Henry A. DiBlasio, an attorney who worked for Traficant for 13 years as one of the congressman's top staffers.
The subpoena shows that federal prosecutors are expanding their investigation into Traficant, of Poland, D-17th.
Charles Straub, Traficant's spokesman, said today that no one from Traficant's staff nor the congressman has been issued subpoenas since the May 4 indictment on 10 felony counts.
Federal authorities subpoenaed payroll records, office vouchers, phone records and other documents from Traficant's office Dec. 8, 1999. DiBlasio's payroll records as well as his financial disclosure statements were part of the records Traficant's office turned over to prosecutors.
Specific information: The source familiar with the Traficant investigation said the recent subpoena seeks more specific information regarding DiBlasio's involvement with Traficant.
Traficant hired DiBlasio as his administrative assistant-district director Jan. 3, 1985, when Traficant began serving the first of nine terms in Congress. DiBlasio's title in Traficant's office was changed to administrative assistant Feb. 1, 1993, a position he held until retiring Dec. 31, 1998.
His annual salary in 1998 was $85,538.
DiBlasio leased space at 11 Overhill Road in Boardman to Traficant for a district office while employed by the congressman.
Kimberly Sinclair bought the building in November 1998 and from that point on, Traficant paid rent to K.A.S., a company owned by Sinclair, according to county records. Traficant paid $1,380 a month in rent plus utilities for the Boardman office from 1985 to 1994, when the rent dropped to $475 a month, records show. The rent rose to $656 monthly beginning in 1999.
Her husband, Atty. R. Allen Sinclair, was placed on Traficant's payroll, listed as counsel. Sinclair went on the payroll Nov. 16, 1998, a month before DiBlasio's employment ended.
DiBlasio, 71, has a condo in Singer Island, Fla., near West Palm Beach. He could not be reached today.
When interviewed by The Vindicator in February 2000, R. Allen Sinclair said the rental issue first surfaced more than a decade ago, when DiBlasio owned the building and also was a member of Traficant's staff. The building was put in the name of a corporate entity, Sinclair said.
At the time, Sinclair said he believed House officials approved that arrangement. Traficant had his main district office there from 1985 until moving it to the new federal courthouse in Youngstown in 1994.
Declined comment: A spokesman for the House Committee on Standards and Official Conduct has declined to comment about the matter.
Government rules say private office space must be leased at a fair market value.
Sinclair, who was a partner with DiBlasio in the building, had said he believed there were no problems as long as the rental price for the office space was fair.
Traficant rented about 1,200 square feet of space for $656 a month, which Sinclair said was below market value here. After 1994, the congressman used the office to meet with constituents who wanted privacy or who did not want to come downtown, Sinclair said.
"There is no law that says you can't do it unless someone would be benefiting unjustly from it," he said in that February 2000 interview.
Trial date: Traficant has a Feb. 4, 2002, trial date. If convicted, Traficant could get up to 63 years in prison and a $2.2 million fine.
The indictment accuses Traficant of having staff members do manual labor on his houseboat in Washington, D.C. and at his horse farm in Greenford. He accepted cash, expensive dinners, free labor and materials at the farm from businessmen, took kickbacks from high-ranking congressional staff members and more, the government said.
Count four, for example, alleges a conspiracy to violate the federal bribery statute and lists as co-conspirators his administrative assistant and a lawyer placed on the congressional payroll in November 1998. Payroll records show DiBlasio as the administrative assistant, and Sinclair has been identified as the lawyer.
The charge states that the assistant had diverted a portion of his salary to Traficant, which the newly hired lawyer then agreed to do. Cash in an envelope was slipped under the door at Traficant's Overhill Road office, the government said.