The FBI says it has no plans to do any kind of surveillance.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
POLAND -- For nearly 25 years, Ronald D. Carabbia's wife prayed for the day he'd be released from prison.
Today's the day.
In July, the Ohio Parole Board granted Carabbia's release from the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, where he's been since November 1978. Now 73 and frail, Carabbia is expected to be on parole for five years.
Andrea Dean, a spokesman for the Ohio Parole Board, said Carabbia would be released today to a family member in Columbus and live there. He left the prison at 10:10 a.m., accompanied by several family members, including his wife and daughter, according to the prison. It's not clear how long he will remain in Columbus.
Carabbia's wife lives in a stone-covered, ranch-style house on Knollwood Avenue. Their son and daughter live in Boardman.
In December 1977, Carabbia was taken into custody, charged with aggravated murder and aggravated arson in the car-bombing death of Daniel J. Greene, a Cleveland waterfront boss and rival mobster. The remote-controlled bomb detonated outside the office of Green's dentist in the Cleveland suburb of Lyndhurst.
Carabbia's conviction came in May 1978, and that September, a life sentence was imposed.
"He's worth waiting for," Josephine Carabbia said Monday, leaning out the back door of her house. "I prayed for this for 25 years."
Her face glowed with happiness. On the advice of a lawyer, she declined to say too much.
The house is framed by a lush lawn and artistic array of trees and bushes.
The yard looked freshly mowed and the shrubbery neatly trimmed. A handyman waved as he left in a pickup truck.
A reporter wondered if today's reunion would be like living with a stranger.
Not at all, she said. There have been steady prison visits -- children and grandchildren -- over the years.
"So, really, we've been together for 25 years," she said.
Once Josephine Carabbia is reunited with her husband, she knows exactly the first thing she'll do: "I'll say, 'Thank you, God.'"
She described her husband as quiet and shy -- "what you would call a peacemaker."
A lot has changed since Carabbia entered the state prison system.
In 1977, Jimmy Carter was president. Then came the elections of Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Locally in 1977, the Mahoning Valley was reeling from the demise of the steel industry.
The 1980s brought Sony Walkmans, MTV and CDs.
Carabbia is entering a world now obsessed by the Internet and cell phones.
He missed the mid-1990s, when the Mahoning Valley was the focus of a massive organized crime and public corruption probe.
The FBI turned over to federal prosecutors more than 70 gamblers, lawyers, judges and other public officials, the most recent being James. A. Traficant Jr. The ex-congressman is serving an eight-year sentence in central Pennsylvania.
Although the FBI tried to block Carabbia's release, which had been set for May, he won't be given any special attention now, said FBI Special Agent John Kane, head of the bureau's Boardman office.
"Unless someone brings a specific allegation that he is directly involved in criminal activity, we will not focus on him," Kane said Monday. "We won't follow him or do surveillance."
Carabbia's release was based, in part, on a three-page letter Carmen M. Marino, Cuyahoga's chief prosecutor, major trial unit, wrote to the parole board Jan. 30. Marino, who prosecuted Carabbia, retired shortly after writing the letter.
Letter from FBI
To stall Carabbia's release in May, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor William D. Mason wrote to the parole board to inform it that Carabbia's son, Ronald A. Carabbia, is the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation in Mahoning County and surrounding counties.
"The information is that Ronald D. Carabbia is aware of this illegal activity and may have played an active role in it, even from prison," Mason said in his letter to the parole board.
"Further, confidential sources have indicated that there is a legitimate concern and fear that Carabbia, if released at this time, could assume a leadership role among such criminal element in the Youngstown area."
Kane said Monday that the investigation of Carabbia's son continues.
Ronald D. Carabbia, once reputed to be the boss of organized crime in Youngstown, also received a 12-year federal racketeering sentence in 1982. It ran concurrent with the state time.
His criminal history dates to the late 1950s, when police started questioning him about car-bombing deaths, gambling operations and burglaries.
In the late 1960s, he spent 10 months in a federal prison on a tax conviction. He received probation on gambling charges in 1973.
The Greene murder brought forth a turncoat witness, confessed hit man Raymond W. Ferritto. Ferritto said Carabbia helped rig the car bomb and threw the switch.
Carabbia contended he was at a football game in Struthers when Greene was killed.
Carmen A. Policy, president of the Cleveland Browns, was Carabbia's attorney for the Greene murder trial. Policy challenged the testimony of prosecution witnesses, calling them liars and perverts.
Carabbia's brothers, Orland and Charles, were organized crime newsmakers, too. Secret audiotapes they made with Traficant during his run for Mahoning County sheriff in 1980 were later used to indict him on bribery charges in 1982.
Traficant, as sheriff, beat the charges in 1983. He went on to win election to Congress in 1984.
Traficant was found guilty in April of racketeering and tax evasion. The House expelled him July 24, and on July 30, he began serving his sentence.
Charles Carabbia was reported missing in December 1980 and declared dead in 1988 when an FBI agent testified he had been killed.