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TRAFICANT CASE Evidence includes photos of cash



Published: Tue, July 31, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Federal prosecutors called 'nonsensical' some of the congressman's evidence requests.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Nestled among 37 boxes of evidence to be used against indicted U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. are four photographs that show envelopes stuffed with money.

There's also a five-page computer printout of his criminal record; 95,557 photocopies of documents and tangible objects; 20 video and 453 audio cassettes; a 13-page report and transcript of his contacts with FBI agents; and 21 FBI lab reports.

The cassettes were made from various public appearances that Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, has made, most of which the press covered.

The government, in its long-running investigation of the congressman, did not tap his phones or bug his house or offices. He had asked for the "fruits" of court-ordered electronic surveillance, but none exists, the government says.

Cafaro role: An additional 4,323 photocopies in the boxes are labeled Cafaro, a reference to J.J. Cafaro of Liberty, whose family develops shopping malls. Cafaro has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the federal bribery statute and will be a prosecution witness at the congressman's Feb. 4 trial on racketeering, bribery and tax evasion charges.

Cafaro has admitted that, in return for expected favors in 1998, he handed Traficant an envelope with $13,000 in it and paid more than $26,000 for repairs to the congressman's houseboat.

Cafaro, who had a company in Virginia that developed a laser-guidance system for airplanes, wanted Traficant to use his influence to promote the technology, which the government said the congressman did.

As part of Traficant's 10-count indictment, the government says each month he accepted envelopes stuffed with $2,500 that had been slipped under the door at his Overhill Road office in Boardman.

Atty. R. Allen Sinclair has been identified as the staffer who slipped the money under the door, a procedure the indictment says was established by his predecessor. Payroll records identify the predecessor as Atty. Henry A. DiBlasio.

Sinclair has been cooperating with the government. DiBlasio, who went off the congressional payroll in December 1998 when Sinclair went on it, could not be reached to comment.

Government request: FBI agents delivered the 37 boxes of evidence a week ago today, when federal prosecutors Craig S. Morford, Bernard A. Smith and Matthew B. Kall made a request for reciprocal discovery.

In a 13-page motion and two-page letter filed Monday, the government made a second request for the evidence Traficant intends to use to defend himself.

Traficant did not respond to a message left at his office in Washington, D.C., where he arrived midafternoon Monday.

The government lawyers also responded to a motion Traficant filed July 20 that asks for virtually all the evidence against him -- and beyond. Prosecutors said they have "far exceeded" their obligations of what evidence is required to be turned over at this time.

The government declined to turn over witness statements now before the witnesses testify at trial, and called "nonsensical" some of Traficant's requests.

The wording of his motion -- Traficant is not a lawyer -- contains ambiguous language and, for most of the items requested, cites no applicable federal rules as required by law, the government said.

Offer: Although it doesn't have to now, but in an effort not to cause any delays, the government said it is willing to turn over portions of certain grand jury transcripts, FBI interview forms and one witness statement.

The evidence will go to Traficant if U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells orders him not to copy the documents or publicly disclose them to anyone, including the press.

Prosecutors said the evidence will show that Traficant, 60, attempted to influence, obstruct and impede the investigation by trying to get his administrative counsel, Sinclair, to destroy evidence and provide false testimony and information to a grand jury.

"Given this conduct, pretrial disclosure of the statements of potential witnesses would enable Congressman Traficant to further obstruct justice in this matter," the government said.

Although the government had the 37 boxes ready for delivery June 13, the nine-term congressman failed to tell federal prosecutors where to deliver the evidence. It wasn't until prodded by Judge Wells at a status conference July 20 that Traficant said the boxes should be delivered to his office in Youngstown's federal courthouse.

Unrelated cases: Although not required by the rules of evidence, the government said it would make available for viewing to Traficant several boxes of documents seized by the IRS during an unrelated investigation of contractors Anthony Bucci and Robert Bucci.

The Buccis are among the prominent businessmen named in Traficant's indictment who the government said gave him things of value in order to influence his official acts.

The congressman also is welcome to listen to audiotapes made in the unrelated case against Lenny Strollo, the Mahoning Valley mob boss who turned government witness, as did his confidant, Charles O'Nesti, Traficant's longtime top local aide. The government said it knows of no exculpatory evidence contained in the Strollo tapes.

Traficant had wanted an audiotape of a statement Hubbard landscaper Lawrence P. "Jeep" Garono made while housed at the Euclid City Jail. No audiotape exists, he will not be called by the prosecution to testify at Traficant's trial, and the jail statement provides nothing that benefits the congressman, the government said.

Garono, a key man in Strollo's criminal enterprise, also has testified for the government in its prosecution of organized crime figures.

meade@vindy.com




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