Traficant pension carved for fines

By Patricia Meade

The balance owed on the fine is $103,783, which includes interest.

YOUNGSTOWN — James A. Traficant Jr. and the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System reached an agreement with a federal prosecutor to carve out $250 monthly from the imprisoned ex-congressman’s state pension to pay his court fine.

The agreement, filed Tuesday in Cleveland federal court, now awaits approval by U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells. Judge Wells presided over Traficant’s corruption trial and sentenced him to eight years in prison July 30, 2002.

A jury found Traficant guilty of 10 counts, including racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion. The judge ordered that the Poland Democrat pay a $150,000 fine, which covers the cost of his incarceration; a $96,000 forfeiture the jury imposed; and $19,580 in unpaid taxes. Once out of prison, he faces three years supervised release.

Traficant, who turned 67 on May 8, is incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn. His sentence is up Sept. 2, 2009.

Court papers show that, as of April, Traficant’s fine balance was $103,783 ($92,429 principal and $11,354 interest). The interest is 1.67 percent compounded annually.

In February, Richard J. French, an assistant U.S. attorney, filed an application to attach Traficant’s state pension. Traficant earned a state retirement based on his 15 years’ employment with Mahoning County, which included 11 years as director of the Mahoning County Drug Program and four years as Mahoning County sheriff.

The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System objected in March to having Traficant’s pension garnished, as did Traficant, through Youngstown attorney Marty Yavorcik. The parties involved then conferred and reached the agreement filed in federal court.

Traficant served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1985 until the House expelled him a week before his sentencing in federal court in 2002.

The government already takes $770 monthly from his federal pension and $50 from his prison-work earnings, according to Vindicator files. French has said garnishment of Traficant’s federal pension lasts until the fine is paid and can be extended if Traficant doesn’t pay the $96,000 forfeiture.

Also applied toward the fine was $4,810 from the proceeds of an auction of items that had been at Traficant’s district offices and horse farm in Greenford. The balance of the auction proceeds, $5,504, went to his wife, Tish, and daughter, Elizabeth Chahine. Another lump sum of $8,475 was applied toward the fine but the nature of the garnishment wasn’t immediately available.

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