The FBI had secretly recorded conversations between an informant and the former sheriff's department lieutenant.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Indicted U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. used his position as WKBN-AM radio host to broadcast this message to a convicted felon: "I know you got a raw deal, and we'll work on it."
Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, addressed his comment Thursday to Michael S. Terlecky of Canfield. To bolster his contention that the local FBI, not the mob, ruined the Mahoning Valley, the congressman has enlisted the help of Terlecky and others.
Traficant's bribery, racketeering and tax evasion trial is set for Feb. 4, 2002. He filled in for talk show host Dan Ryan this week, using some of the time to attack the FBI, even saying -- without producing any evidence -- that a local agent raped one of his constituents.
Terlecky did not call the radio show Thursday. He did discuss his case on the air with Traficant in December, the last time the congressman filled in for Ryan.
Traficant has expressed a desire to get Terlecky a presidential pardon and submitted two of his affidavits into the Congressional Record.
Documents pertaining to Terlecky's case are stored in Chicago. The Vindicator had the boxes shipped to U.S. District Court in Cleveland recently for review.
The case: A federal grand jury indicted mob boss Lenny Strollo, Terlecky and nine others in April 1988 on racketeering charges. All eventually pleaded guilty.
Terlecky pleaded guilty in June 1990 to one count, admitting that, from 1984 to Oct. 30, 1987, he was part of the racketeering enterprise. His role as a lieutenant at the Mahoning County Sheriff's Department was to accept bribe payments from Strollo and protect gambling businesses operated by the enterprise.
As part of Terlecky's plea agreement, the government dropped four counts. He received a one-year sentence in September 1990.
His lawyers were Stewart I. Mandel, a former assistant U.S. attorney, and Samuel Petkovich, who later served as a Warren judge. In an unrelated case, Mandel pleaded guilty April 20, 1998, to filing a false corporation tax return on behalf of Strollo for a fireworks company.
Terlecky's version of his long-ago legal problems depicts him as a raider of gambling operations "neutralized" by FBI Special Agent Robert G. Kroner Jr. to prevent the truth about Kroner's criminal wrongdoing from being revealed.
It was Kroner who played a key role in Traficant's first bribery case in 1983. Traficant, then sheriff, defended himself and won acquittal.
The tapes: Among the Terlecky documents reviewed by The Vindicator is a search warrant affidavit signed by Kroner containing excerpts of conversations secretly taped by an FBI informant.
During an April 18, 1985, conversation at the informant's home, Terlecky said the last time he was at the Stardust Motel, in North Lima, Strollo gave him a $2,500 loan. Terlecky said "they" -- at the sheriff's department -- get $3,000 a month and it's split between himself, then-Sheriff Edward P. Nemeth, then-Reserve Deputy Pat Armstrong and maybe the sheriff's brother-in-law.
Terlecky also told the informant that you have to make money while you are in power. He said he did not care what he had to do, even if he had to kill someone, he was going to make money.
Kroner's affidavit also details FBI surveillance of meetings between Terlecky and Strollo at the Stardust and elsewhere.
In a conversation recorded Nov. 4, 1985, Terlecky said the monthly package from Strollo was now $5,000 and that he gets a "G" -- $1,000.
In early January 1986, the informant said he would be out of town for a few days and asked Terlecky about arrangements for the January "package." Terlecky said January had already been taken care of.
A few weeks later, Terlecky wanted to go to Florida, needed money badly, and wanted his portion of the next month's "package" before he left. The informant spoke to Strollo and arranged a meeting between the mob boss and Terlecky.
Agents saw Terlecky and Strollo meet at The Palmer House, another motel in North Lima, on Jan. 23, 1986.
Terlecky later told the informant he had received an extra $1,000 from Strollo for the Florida trip.
When stopped and searched Feb. 27, 1986, by the FBI, Terlecky had a package of $5,000 held together with a rubber band. Terlecky said he got the money from a business partner, not Strollo, but declined to name the person.