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YOUNGSTOWN Smith gets prison time for contract scheme



Published: Fri, August 23, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Sentencing is next week for the contractor who bribed a congressman.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Renee Smith's sentence is 10 months for using Tone Crack Seal & amp; Supply to obtain minority contracts which were then "passed through" to a white contractor.

U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells sentenced Smith, 40, of Clarencedale Avenue, to five months in prison and five months of electronically monitored house arrest. She remains free until the federal Bureau of Prisons designates a facility.

The five months' house arrest is within her two years' supervised release. She was not fined but did have to pay a $400 special assessment.

Her Niles attorney, Matthew J. Blair, said Thursday that no one suffered a monetary loss.

Although Smith was sentenced Aug. 12 in Cleveland federal court, the electronic docket entry did not reflect the event until Thursday. A court official said he would look into the matter.

Until Thursday, the last entry was Smith's May 22 guilty plea to three counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Richard H. Blake, an assistant U.S. attorney, said he was pleased with the outcome of the case.

Smith, who no longer owns Tone Crack, serves as clerical secretary at the Laborers International Union of North America Local 125 on Market Street.

Contract scam

Between January 1995 and December 1998, Smith and James R. Sabatine of Canfield devised a scheme to fraudulently obtain paving contracts that were set aside for minority businesses in Ohio. At the time, Sabatine owned Hardrives Paving and Construction Inc. of Mineral Ridge.

Smith and Sabatine submitted false certifications to make it look like Tone Crack would do the bulk of the work when, in fact, Hardrives would. The work "passed through" Tone Crack, and Hardrives received most of the money allotted, more than $515,000 for four contracts.

"It was just a very unfortunate situation. I think she is as much a victim in this case as anyone," Blair said. "I think she was very much used by Mr. Sabatine. It's a situation where he really profited from the arrangement and her profits were far less than his."

Last summer, Sabatine pleaded guilty to, among other things, his part in the minority contract scheme and to paying James A. Traficant Jr. a $2,400 bribe in August 1998.

Sabatine, who liquidated Hardrives in 2001, wanted to secure a rail line near his Youngstown asphalt plant and paid Traficant, 17th District congressman at the time, for whatever influence he could wield to make it happen.

Sentencing to come

Sabatine, who faces a 10- to 16-month sentence, testified at Traficant's corruption trial. Traficant was found guilty of all 10 counts he faced but not the racketeering act that involved Sabatine.

Sabatine will be sentenced next week. Traficant is serving eight years in a federal prison in central Pennsylvania.

The mail fraud occurred when Smith and Sabatine knew the U.S. Postal Service was used to deliver documents related to the scheme to defraud the Ohio Public Works Commission, which, at the time, required that 5 percent of all contracts be set aside for minority businesses.

They obtained road contracts in Mahoning and Trumbull counties by submitting -- through the mail -- false documentation to the OPWC, Struthers, Goshen, Champion and Kinsman townships.

When Struthers' 1995 State Street paving contract was awarded to Tone Crack, Smith worked at the union hall with Robert D. Carcelli, who lost his re-election bid last year for Struthers councilman. He has since retired from the union, where he served as secretary-treasurer.

His brother, Ronald A. Carcelli, longtime Struthers street department foreman, retired in January. A Mahoning County grand jury indicted him June 21 on charges of theft in office, bribery and theft.

Carcelli's trial

Ronald Carcelli is accused of accepting roughly $5,000 in bribes from Sabatine. In return, Ronald Carcelli allegedly doctored weigh slips when Hardrives delivered asphalt to Struthers, which paid $8,000 for paving material not used.

In return for testifying against Ronald Carcelli, Sabatine won't face state charges.

Blair said Smith has offered to give her full cooperation if asked to testify at Ronald Carcelli's trial, now set for Sept. 18. Two former Hardrives employees, Edward Pannutti of Lowellville and Christ Minerd of Campbell, pleaded guilty in federal court to participating in a scheme to submit fraudulent invoices for asphalt not used in Mahoning County projects.

Minerd was sentenced April 29 to one year of probation and ordered to pay $8,750 restitution to the Mahoning County Engineer's Office. Pannutti's sentencing is set for Tuesday, but a motion has been filed to reset it. He is expected to testify against Ronald Carcelli.

meade@vindy.com




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