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TRAFICANT CASE First charged, contractor awaits fate



Published: Fri, July 12, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Some of those who cooperated are eligible for house arrest.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- With one exception, those who admitted taking part in U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s crooked capers have been sentenced or will be soon.

Contractor A. David Sugar Sr. -- charged two years ago in the case against the now-convicted congressman -- is the exception.

A federal grand jury indicted Sugar on July 18, 2000, charging him with perjury, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.

Sugar was charged roughly 10 months before the grand jury indicted Traficant, who was found guilty in April of racketeering, bribery and tax evasion and will be sentenced July 30.

Sugar, 53, provided false testimony when questioned by the grand jury about whether his Honey Creek Contracting billed and received payment from Traficant for work done at the congressman's 76-acre family farm at 6908 W. South Range Road in Green Township.

Sugar also directed his secretary to create fake invoices and mailing dates and told her to misrepresent facts about the phony invoices to the FBI.

On Oct. 24, 2000, Sugar changed his mind about going to trial and pleaded guilty. His 13-page plea agreement was sealed, an indication that he would cooperate in the case against Traficant, of Poland, D-17th.

How things stand

U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells continued Sugar's $50,000 bond and set sentencing for Jan. 4, 2001. The government, at the time still investigating Traficant, asked on Jan. 3, 2001, that Sugar's sentencing be postponed, and the judge granted the request that day.

Since then, the government has not asked for a new sentencing date.

Sugar did not respond to messages left at his home and business. His Cleveland lawyer, Patrick A. D'Angelo, was not available.

When Sugar entered his plea, Craig S. Morford, assistant U.S. attorney, said that, based on Sugar's acceptance of responsibility, the sentencing range is 18 to 24 months. The range takes into account criminal history, which the prosecutor did not disclose.

Substantial assistance to the government, however, would reduce Sugar's sentence to 10 to 16 months. At the low end, he could spend five months incarcerated in a community corrections facility and five months' house arrest.

Sugar provided key testimony for the prosecution at Traficant's trial.

Sugar's guilty plea and testimony caused Trumbull County commissioners to question the propriety of awarding his company a utilities contract.

In the end, Sugar, who had submitted the low bid, lost the contract because of a paperwork error also made by several other companies.

Although Sugar was the first to plead guilty in the Traficant case, the contractor may be the last one sentenced.

Other cases

Here's an update on the others:

U Businessman J.J. Cafaro of Liberty will be sentenced Aug. 14. The multimillionaire, whose family develops shopping malls, testified that he provided Traficant with $40,000 in cash and gifts. Cafaro faces zero to six months' incarceration. At that level, he is eligible for probation. The charge, conspiracy to commit bribery of a public official, was filed May 4, 2001, at 12:24 p.m., five minutes after a 10-count indictment was filed against Traficant. Cafaro pleaded guilty May 14, 2001.

U Contractor James R. Sabatine of Canfield will be sentenced Aug. 27. He testified that he gave Traficant a $2,400 bribe. Sabatine faces 10 to 16 months and, at the low end, could spend five months incarcerated in a community corrections facility and five months' house arrest. He was charged Aug. 2, 2001, with engaging in a pattern of racketeering and filing a false tax return. He pleaded guilty Aug. 13, 2001.

U Retired attorney Henry A. DiBlasio of Florida will be sentenced Sept. 26. He admits he kicked back a portion of his congressional salary to Traficant and lied about it to a grand jury. DiBlasio faces six to 12 months, which makes him eligible for probation with home confinement. He was indicted Jan. 4, charged with perjury, and pleaded guilty June 25.

U Contractor Anthony R. Bucci of Florida was sentenced June 4 to two years' probation. He had been awaiting sentencing for crimes unrelated to Traficant when he agreed to testify about the bribes -- labor, materials and gifts -- that he provided to the congressman in return for favors.

U Retired contractor Bernard J. Bucheit of Florida is set for trial Aug. 12. He was indicted Jan. 4, charged with conspiracy to violate the federal bribery statute, giving an unlawful gratuity to a public official and perjury before a federal grand jury. The government said he provided labor and materials at Traficant's horse farm in return for favors.

U Engineer Richard E. Detore of Virginia is set for trial Nov. 12. He is accused of taking part in the bribery scheme that involved Cafaro. Detore was indicted in October 2001, charged with conspiracy to violate the federal bribery statute.

meade@vindy.com




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