Hardrives manager plans to plead guilty
The defendant was charged three days after his boss pleaded guilty.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
CLEVELAND -- An asphalt plant supervisor whose boss admitted bribing U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. will plead guilty to mail fraud.
A two-count criminal information filed Aug. 16 in U.S. District Court charged Edward Pannutti, 47, of Badal Drive, Lowellville, with generating fake invoices for asphalt not used on streets in Struthers in 1996 and Mahoning County's road projects in 1997.
At the time, Pannutti served as supervisor at Hardrives' asphalt plant in Youngstown. He used the U.S. Postal Service to send the phony invoices to, and receive checks from, Mahoning County for $8,750 and Struthers for $10,082, the government said.
Swindling scheme: The information charges that, from April to August 1996, Pannutti and unidentified others devised a scheme to swindle Struthers, and from April to October 1997, to defraud Mahoning County.
For the government to file an information, the defendant must waive his right to indictment by a grand jury. The defendant then, in nearly all cases, agrees to plead guilty as part of the waiver and the plea agreement may require him to testify against co-defendants.
Pannutti will plead guilty to the charges at his arraignment Wednesday in federal court, records show. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells.
Pannutti's Boardman attorney, Samuel G, Amendolara, could not be reached.
In on probe: The case was investigated by the FBI, IRS, U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Labor. It is being prosecuted by Richard H. Blake, an assistant U.S. attorney and member of the Organized Crime Strike Force.
Pannutti's boss at the time of the charges was Canfield contractor James R. Sabatine, 49, who pleaded guilty Aug. 13 in federal court to a two-count criminal information that had been filed Aug. 2.
He admitted engaging in a pattern of racketeering between June 1993 and December 1999 -- including mail fraud and three counts of bribery. He also admitted filing a false tax return for 1994, understating his income by $239,000.
Paid a bribe: Sabatine admitted that, in August 1998, he paid Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, a $2,400 bribe to have the congressman intervene on his behalf to secure a rail line and steady supply of raw materials to the asphalt plant.
Sabatine also bribed former Mahoning County Engineer William P. Fergus with $20,000 in 1994 for favorable treatment and bribed an unidentified inspector at the county engineer's office with $7,300 between 1993 and 1997.
Earlier this year, Sabatine sold Hardrives. He is free on $500,000 unsecured bond and his sentencing has been deferred until he fulfills his obligation to testify for the government at upcoming trials, including Traficant's.
Sentence: In return for Sabatine's unlimited on-demand cooperation, which extends to state courts, the government will recommend that he receive a 10- to 16-month sentence, a portion of which must be spent incarcerated. So far, he and two other prominent businessmen are expected to testify against Traficant.