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BOARDMAN Traficant speaks of mob 'myth'



Published: Thu, May 31, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The congressman also said the federal government is hassling John Demjanjuk, who is facing deportation.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

BOARDMAN -- It was federal investigators and not mobsters who corrupted the Mahoning Valley, U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. said today on WKBN-AM radio.

"The Mahoning Valley is not corrupt, but the FBI made the Mahoning Valley a whorehouse," Traficant of Poland, D-17th, said during his third day as guest host of the radio station's morning show. "Youngstown has taken a very bad rap. Quite frankly, I blame the press for perpetuating the myth of mobsters in Youngstown."

Traficant said local FBI officials were on the Mafia payroll.

Citing influence: Although Traficant said local Mafia influence was a "myth," he talked at length during today's broadcast about the influence of various mobsters on the local political process.

But he said they weren't such bad guys.

"They had a way of life and they did what they had to do," Traficant said.

Traficant has admitted he had firsthand experience dealing with local mobsters. He successfully defended himself against charges he accepted mob bribes while sheriff in 1983. He lost a tax case stemming from the same issues in 1987.

Traficant, who will finish his guest-host stint on WKBN on Friday, was indicted May 4 on 10 felony counts including bribery, racketeering and tax evasion.

A federal indictment charges the nine-term congressman with accepting kickbacks from local contractors and his staff as well as requiring his employees to do free work at his Washington, D.C., houseboat and Greenford family farm. His trial is set to begin Feb. 4, 2002.

Discussing Demjanjuk: Traficant also talked about the citizenship revocation trial of John Demjanjuk, who is fighting government charges that he hid a past as a Nazi guard at death and forced labor camps. Demjanjuk, of Cuyahoga County, was convicted in Israel of crimes against humanity and awaited a death sentence before Israel's Supreme Court acquitted him in 1993. Traficant helped prove that Demjanjuk was not the infamous Nazi guard "Ivan the Terrible" at a Poland death camp.

"They're hassling this man, who's 81 years old," Traficant said. "I can't believe what they're doing. It's a shame."

Traficant said if Demjanjuk lied on his U.S. citizenship papers, he should be forgiven.

"Any Ukrainian who came to America who lied did it because he would have been sent back to the Soviet Union and put in front of a firing squad and executed," he said. "If he did something else and they have some evidence, fine."

skolnick@vindy.com




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