The judge recalled a positive experience with the defendant from years ago.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Frank Carbon, former chief deputy at the Mahoning County Sheriff's Department, has been sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for selling marijuana and cheating on his taxes.
In May, Carbon, 58, of Bonita Springs, Fla., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana -- 1.1 to 3.3 tons -- from as early as 2000 and throughout 2001. He admitted that he stored and sold marijuana.
He also pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return for 2001. He showed a negative income of $30,670, but actually had $81,157 in earnings and owed a tax of $24,650, the IRS said.
Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus sentenced Carbon to 41 months in prison, to be followed by three years' supervised release and outpatient drug and alcohol treatment. The sentencing range had been 41 to 51 months. Carbon was not fined but must make restitution of $24,650 to the IRS.
The judge will recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that Carbon be incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Coleman, Fla. The prison, 50 miles northwest of Orlando, has a residential drug and alcohol program. If Carbon, who has substance abuse problems, is accepted into the program, successful completion would knock one year off his sentence.
Carbon left the sheriff's department at the end of 1996, after Sheriff Edward P. Nemeth lost re-election to Phil Chance.
Carbon's Youngstown lawyer, Damian A. Billak, said in court Wednesday that his client lost sight of what he had dedicated his life to and then realized what his actions in the marijuana distribution ring were doing to his family.
"I'm ashamed of my involvement in this," Carbon told the judge. "I accept full responsibility. I don't blame anyone but myself."
Judge Economus said when he was on the Mahoning County Common Pleas bench he considered Carbon very professional.
The judge recalled once having a "Barney Fife" security guard in common pleas court who came upon a man with a gun during a murder trial and asked what to do. "I said, 'Arrest him,'" the judge said, laughing at the memory.
Fife played a lovable but inept deputy on TV's "Andy Griffith."
Judge Economus said that, after his experience with the security guard, Carbon offered to set up a security system for the common pleas courts, using deputies. The judge said the result was a strict security system that has evolved over the years.
Carbon's plea agreement requires him to cooperate with the government in related co-conspirators' cases. The cooperation could mean testimony before a grand jury and at trial.
Others could face charges
Roger S. Bamberger, an assistant U.S. attorney assigned to the organized crime drug enforcement task force, said Wednesday that he expects charges to be filed against two others in the next few weeks. Bamberger called the investigation "interesting," saying it involved defendants who had never been in trouble.
The case was investigated by the IRS and Drug Enforcement Administration.
DEA Special Agent Doug Lamplugh, head of the Youngstown office, has said that Carbon's involvement was similar to restaurateur William Umbel's. Umbel, 57, of Youngstown, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and received a 51-month sentence in June. Umbel is incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton. His projected release is March 23, 2009.
Bamberger has said that Carbon and Umbel were friends and, because of that, Carbon allowed a building he owned on Southern Boulevard to be used for storage of marijuana. He also allowed storage at a house he was selling.
Umbel's plea agreement states that he accepted deliveries from others -- 200 to 600 pounds at a time -- for his customers.
Umbel made news in April when three local judges wrote letters on his behalf to Judge Economus. Over the years, Umbel's eateries included the Pyatt Street Diner and the Colonial House on Market Street, both closed.