By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
LIBERTY -- John J. Cafaro admits he wined and dined U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. and slipped him cold, hard cash to influence the marketing of laser-guidance system for planes and boats.
Cafaro, 49, through his Cleveland lawyer, Geoffrey S. Mearns, said he will plead guilty to the one-count criminal information filed Friday that charges him with conspiracy to commit bribery of a public official. The charge was filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland at 12:24 p.m., five minutes after a 10-count indictment was filed against Traficant, of Poland, D-17th.
From November 1997 to March 2000, Cafaro agreed to give Traficant things of value and, in return, the congressman would support having technology of U.S. Aerospace Group, which is owned and managed by Cafaro, certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and used by airports and various government agencies. USAG is a laser technology company based in Manassas, Va.
Continued cooperation: Cafaro, also a vice president of the Cafaro Co., said he and others at USAG have cooperated fully in the government investigation and will continue to do so. USAG, which records show suspended operations in the fall of 2000, is not affiliated with the Cafaro Co.
"It became apparent that my conduct crossed the line between permissible, legitimate lobbying and unlawful conduct, and I accept full responsibility for my actions in relationship to USAG," Cafaro said through Mearns. "I deeply regret the embarrassment this incident has caused to my family and my community. I intend to work diligently within the community to repair the damage that has been caused by my mistake."
About the charge: The charge against Cafaro shows that, from April 1998 to December 1999, the USAG chief operating officer and Traficant dined 30 times at the Taverna Restaurant in Washington, D.C., at a cost of $3,200, paid by USAG. They discussed what Traficant would do for the company.
The congressman took several official actions, including promoting the laser technology guidance system to the FAA, the government said.
The company's chief operating officer assisted Traficant by paying for $26,000 in repairs to the congressman's houseboat and Cafaro agreed to provide half of the purchase price for the boat, which was $13,000 in cash. The sale of the boat was concealed by making it look like the USAG executive bought the boat for his own use, the government said.
Cafaro had off-duty Liberty police provide extra security at his home earlier this week. Police Capt. James Cerenelli said Friday after hearing of the charge that township officers will no longer be permitted to work the Cafaro detail. Cafaro hadn't announced a reason for the added security.
Company's statement: J.J.'s brother, Anthony Cafaro issued a press release Friday on behalf of the Cafaro Co., saying, "The Cafaro Co. is deeply troubled by the circumstances leading to the information filed today against John J. Cafaro."
The Cafaro Co. president added that, "USAG is Mr. John J. Cafaro's personal venture, and it is separate and independent from The Cafaro Co. ... Notwithstanding this unfortunate development, the Cafaro family and the employees of The Cafaro Co. continue to support John J. Cafaro as a colleague and a friend."