U.S. DISTRICT COURT Sabatine receives 10-month sentence
In return for cooperation, the businessman won't face state charges.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
CLEVELAND -- The sentence for a Canfield man who bribed his way into Mahoning County paving contracts is 10 months.
After a tearful apology to his family, friends and Mahoning County, James R. Sabatine, 50, of Pebble Beach Court received a split sentence this morning in federal court from U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells.
The five months of incarceration will likely be spent in a halfway facility, but that will be determined by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The other five months will be electronically monitored house arrest.
Sabatine must make restitution of $8,750 to Mahoning County and $10,082 to Struthers. The restitution will be split with two of his former employees who pleaded guilty to their part in taking advantage of paving contracts with Mahoning County.
Judge Wells fined Sabatine $7,500 and ordered him to pay back taxes totaling about $66,000. The former contractor also must pay the cost of his electronically monitored house arrest.
Last August, Sabatine pleaded guilty to a two-count criminal information that involved Hardrives Paving and Construction Inc. of Mineral Ridge, which he liquidated in 2001. He has been free on $500,000 unsecured bond.
Sabatine admitted engaging in a pattern of racketeering between June 1993 and December 1999 and filing a false tax return for 1994, understating his income by $239,000.
Sabatine also admitted giving James A. Traficant Jr. a $2,400 bribe in 1998. At the time, Traficant, now serving an eight-year federal prison sentence, was congressman for the 17th District and Sabatine wanted to buy influence for a rail line to serve his asphalt plant in Youngstown.
The sentencing had been set for Nov. 13, 2001, but was reset until after Traficant's corruption trial, which ended April 11. Sabatine testified about the $2,400 bribe, but the jury did not find Traficant guilty of the racketeering act.
Sabatine's plea agreement with the government, represented by Richard H. Blake, an assistant U.S. attorney, requires him to provide "truthful, complete and forthright information whenever, wherever, to whomever and in whatever form" asked by federal prosecutors. This includes testifying at grand juries, testifying in court and producing documents.
In return for Sabatine's unlimited on-demand cooperation, which extends to state courts, the government recommended that he receive a 10- to 16-month sentence, a portion of which must be spent behind bars.
Sabatine is expected to testify at trial next month in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court against Ronald A. Carcelli, 49, of Elm Street, Struthers. Carcelli, retired foreman of Struthers street department, is accused of taking about $5,000 in bribes from Sabatine, then doctoring weight slips to make it appear the city used more asphalt than it actually did.
In return for his testimony, Sabatine will face no state charges, an assistant county prosecutor has said.
Bribed county engineer
Sabatine's federal plea, meanwhile, included mail fraud and two more acts of bribery -- including two payments totaling $20,000 in 1994 to former Mahoning County Engineer William P. Fergus to ensure that Hardrives maintained a "favorable position" for future contracts. The government also linked the bribes to a 1993 contract Hardrives had to repave Meridian Road in Youngstown.
Fergus, charged in March 1998 with taking kickbacks, pleaded guilty and received an 18-month sentence. He has been out of prison since Oct. 13, 2000.
Sabatine, to submit fraudulent weight tickets for asphalt that was never applied, also paid four bribes totaling $7,300 to an unnamed inspector at the county engineer's office between June 1993 and September 1997, the government said. Sabatine personally gave the inspector three bribes and, on the fourth occasion, had it delivered through two other members of the racketeering enterprise.
Sabatine's plea agreement also states that, between July 1995 and November 1998, he and a minority contractor, Renee Smith of Youngstown, doing business as Tone Crack Sealing & amp; Supply Co., devised a scheme to fraudulently obtain government paving contracts that were set aside for minority businesses in Ohio. Smith received a 10-month sentence earlier this month.
Smith 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" the minority firm, and Hardrives received most of the money allotted, more than $515,000 for four contracts.