Probation-violation hearing set for Tsgaris; case tied to Cronin

A federal prosecutor declined to explain the tie between Tsagaris’ case and that against ex-Mahoning judge Maureen Cronin.



AKRON — Former Trumbull County Commissioner James G. Tsagaris is scheduled for a probation-violation hearing in federal court next week.

A scheduling notice from U.S. District Court in Akron says the hearing will be at 10 a.m. Thursday before Judge Sara Lioi, who sentenced Tsagaris on Aug. 18 to one year of electronically monitored house arrest and three years’ probation and fined him $4,000.

Tsagaris, 75, of Howland, was sentenced after he pleaded guilty to two counts of honest services mail fraud.

Tsagaris was charged with accepting a $36,551 loan from an unidentified local businessman in late 2004 while he was a commissioner, without reporting it on state financial disclosure statements in 2005 and 2006.

Then, Tsagaris acted on behalf of that businessman, voting as a commissioner on matters that would personally benefit that businessman, Judge Lioi said during Tsagaris’ sentencing hearing.

Judge Lioi did not reveal the name of the businessman or the type of business he runs, nor did she identify the votes Tsagaris cast that would have benefitted the businessman.

Justin Roberts, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, said during the sentencing hearing that there was no evidence of any dollar loss to Trumbull County as a result of Tsagaris’ behavior.

A court spokeswoman declined to disclose the nature of Tsagaris’ alleged probation violation. A court order regarding the violation report and Tsagaris’ plea agreement are restricted to court personnel and case participants and not available to the media, the spokeswoman said.

“The defendant shall be required to remain in his residence unless given permission in advance by the probation officer to be elsewhere,” the judge ordered.

During his house arrest, Tsagaris, who could not be reached to comment for this story, may leave home to work, receive medical treatment or attend church services.

When Roberts filed an information Thursday against former Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge Maureen A. Cronin, he also filed a notice that the Cronin and Tsagaris cases are related and that the two cases arose from the same investigation.

On Friday afternoon, Roberts declined to explain the link.

In the information, Cronin is also charged with two felony counts of honest services mail fraud. Cronin, who resigned from the bench in mid-2007, is accused of taking an interest-free, $18,000 cash loan from an unidentified “senior executive of a business with multiple cases pending before” her in the back seat of the executive’s car.

She then presided over cases involving that unnamed company and its affiliated businesses “without disclosure or recusal” and failed to report the loan as required on annual state financial disclosure statements for 2006 and 2007, which she filed by mail, the bill says.

Federal prosecutors said Judge Cronin presided over more than 50 civil lawsuits involving the unnamed company and its affiliates. There was no payment schedule or collateral attached to the loan, and Cronin made no payments on it while presiding over the company’s cases, the information says.

The bill said she failed to disclose “her self-enrichment and conflicts of interest while [serving] as a common pleas judge.’’ The filing of a bill of information typically means the accused is cooperating with authorities and agrees to be found guilty of the charges.

The Cronin case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Christopher Boyko in Cleveland, but no plea or sentencing hearings have been scheduled yet in her case.

When a lawyer is convicted of a felony, the Ohio Supreme Court suspends that person’s law license on an interim basis, and the state’s disciplinary counsel launches a formal investigation, said Chris Davey, a top court spokesman. Cronin has an active license to practice law in Ohio.

Davey said he did not know whether the top court would review the cases that were before Judge Cronin that involved the company whose executive made the loan, and what would happen in those cases if any judicial bias is uncovered.

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