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Cronin receives the max for fraud



Published: Wed, February 24, 2010 @ 12:08 a.m.

The district judge said the sentence was appropriate because of the ‘egregious nature of the offense.’

By David Skolnick

photo

Former Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge Maureen A. Cronin

AKRON — Ex-Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Maureen Cronin said that after her mother and longtime boyfriend died within a year of each other, she turned to alcohol and gambling for comfort.

To help pay off her ever-growing gambling debt, Cronin turned to a friend who gave her $18,000, said J. Gerald Ingram, her attorney.

But her failure to report that money, which federal prosecutors said wasn’t necessarily a loan, on state financial-disclosure statements in 2006 and 2007 was a crime.

A tearful statement read Tuesday by Cronin and the urging of leniency by Ingram didn’t help. U.S. District Court Judge Sara Lioi sentenced Cronin to the maximum sentence of 27 months in federal prison for two felony convictions of honest- services mail fraud. She also was fined $4,000 and will be on three years’ parole after she serves her prison time.

“The problems may provide an explanation but not an excuse,” Judge Lioi said. Because of “the serious and egregious nature of the offense, the high end [of the potential sentence] is appropriate.”

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Cronin faced between 21 and 27 months in prison.

The judge added that Cronin “committed a grave breach of trust” and “betrayed the public she served.”

Cronin will start serving her sentence in about 30 to 60 days.

The first woman elected as a Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judge, Cronin resigned in July 2007 after 12 years on the job — and two drunken-driving convictions, in 2005 and 2007.

Cronin said she accepted “complete responsibility for my behavior” and it was a mistake to turn to alcohol and gambling.

Cronin pleaded guilty Dec. 15, 2009, to the two federal felonies.

Cronin was convicted of taking and concealing an $18,000 no-interest cash “loan,” with no collateral or payment schedule from “a senior executive of a business” that had numerous civil suits before her, according to a bill of information filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Cronin presided over several cases involving that company and its affiliated businesses without disclosing the loan or deciding not to hear the legal matters.

Cronin failed to report the loan, given around July 2006, as required on state financial-disclosure statements, which she filed by mail. The bill of information consistently used parenthesis around the word loan because federal government officials questioned if the money given to her in an envelope in the back seat of a car was actually a loan.

The “senior executive’s” name was kept secret until Judge Lioi revealed it to be Flora Cafaro at one point in court. She then stopped the hearing for a moment and never mentioned Cafaro’s name again.

“That was a surprise,” Ingram said after the sentencing about the judge’s revelation.

Flora Cafaro is a part-owner of her family’s Youngstown-based Cafaro Co., one of the nation’s largest retail-shopping companies.

It was the company’s second hit in two days.

The company statement Tuesday said Flora Cafaro made the loan “in her personal capacity, and not in her capacity as a representative of the Cafaro Co. Ms. Cafaro has no involvement in the day-to-day operations of the organization.”

The company issued a statement Monday about her brother, John J. Cafaro charged with a federal felony count of making a material false statement regarding money he improperly gave to the failed 2004 congressional campaign of his daughter, Capri. That statement said his criminal charge involved his “personal activities” and not the company. John J. Cafaro is already a convicted felon.

Flora Cafaro describes herself on Federal Election Commission contributions since 2003 as a company vice president and added assistant treasurer on a few of the donations.

“That’s not accurate at all,” said Joe Bell, Cafaro Co.’s director of corporate communications. “She’s had very, very limited duties here.”

Flora Cafaro’s attorney, Ralph E. Cascarilla, issued a prepared statement Tuesday that his client has an ownership position in the business and she is “a part-time employee with limited administrative duties.”

Cascarilla, who’s also John J. Cafaro’s attorney, also wrote that the loan was made only after Cronin signed “a legally binding promissory note for repayment on demand. Ms. Cafaro has not called for repayment of the loan — which was made personally by her. Ms. Cafaro was never informed that Ms. Cronin had not declared the loan, as required.”

Federal prosecutors previously have said the person who “loaned” the money to Cafaro didn’t commit a crime.

Before the sentence, Ingram pointed out that the company had 44 cases in front of Cronin when she was a judge. Of them 41 were “landlord-tenant” disputes and three were “slip-and-fall” cases. Of those, all but four actually went to trial and were heard by a magistrate.

Cronin had “no judicial involvement” in any of the cases.

But Judge Lioi later said: “The type of case doesn’t matter. The level of [Cronin’s] judicial oversight doesn’t matter. She received money and shouldn’t have had any involvement in the cases. This conduct only erodes the trust in our judicial system.”

As for Cronin’s personal life falling apart about six years ago when her mother and longtime boyfriend died, Ingram said she turned to alcohol and gambling and became withdrawn and isolated.

“It’s hard to fathom a bigger fall from grace,” he said. “Her face was plastered all over the Youngstown Vindicator front page” Tuesday. “Even the best of us have personal flaws.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Roberts didn’t say much during the sentencing hearing.

However, he did say Cronin was a “public official with a criminal history several times over,” he said. “We need to let the public know public officials are not held to a different standard. The people of Mahoning County, Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, its citizens and the state of Ohio deserve better. They deserve to know their officials aren’t being bought and paid for. They need to know if their elected officials are being compromised. It really shakes people’s faith in the judicial system.”

Roberts added that the court needs to “send a message to other public officials to not take money and not be compromised and to fully disclose information to the public.”

Cronin’s attorney asked that she serve her time at Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia. It’s the same minimum-security women’s lockup in which television personality Martha Stewart served her time for insider trading.

The decision on where Cronin will serve her sentence rests with the federal bureau of prisons.

skolnick@vindy.com


Comments

1FifthAve(168 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

This judge and many others in Youngstown often exceed their power--their authority. Youngstown's citizens can keep them in check by not re-electing them.

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2EliotNess_DC(86 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Hey, is it possible that Traficant was telling the truth when he said that J.J. Cafaro lied about bribing him in order to get a deal from the prosecutors to keep J.J. and Capri out of jail for their financial fraud at the US Aerospace shell company that J.J. set up here in Washington, DC to pump Capri for Traficant's seat in Congress?

Ya think??

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3fcb(318 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

It was not a loan,but a bribe.You can't trust any politician in Youngstown. As far as the Cafaro's are concerned,it just proves that money isn't everything.

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4nikki1007(3 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

i think cronin got what she had comeing, i was a mess up in the past and i went in front of her with 1 charge and she called me names that i never thought a judge could say, i was useless a piece of trash i should of never been a mother and i have always been a good mom and still am i did drink then so she told me what kind of lady are you normal people dont turn to drugs are alcohol when there are a death, i lost my sister my son and my brother plus a few friends in the matter of a few years, and she has the nerve to say she turned to drinking and other problems because her mom and boyfriend died, i thought normal people dont do that miss cronin? what are you now? trash like you called me? i have been clean and good now for almost 5 years i hope your stay in prision helps you out too and i really think you need treatment you know help.

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5PHISHIE(105 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

It is very good that the former judge is going to federal prison. It is curious however, how did the feds discover the bribe???? Anyone know...........PHISHIE

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6vinglass(222 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

The records of the bribe were contained in the files seized from Flora Cafaro's office.

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7mrblue(963 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

And people still wonder why Y-town gets put down in national publications.

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8duhtruth(11 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

These folks feel they are above the law. Hopefully, Cronin will learn a good lesson as she serves her sentence. The Cafaros should also have a suite in a big house. JJ cried like a little baby as he lied in the Traficant case. The Bishop better be careful of who he hangs around with.

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9valleytransplant(37 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Reminds me of a line from the Godfather. "The judge, he suspend the sentence. Those 2 boys laughed like I was a fool."

YTown rules!Go JJ!

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10Silence_Dogood(1305 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Roberts said,

""We need to let the public know public officials are not held to a different standard. The people of Mahoning County, Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, its citizens and the state of Ohio deserve better. They deserve to know their officials aren’t being bought and paid for. They need to know if their elected officials are being compromised. It really shakes people’s faith in the judicial system.”"

The only problem is they are being bought, hell we even know who is doing the buying, but do you think that the one's throwing around all the money would have to pay for thier indiscretions, not a chance. How many days in jail did that FELON J.J.Cafaro spend in jail? The answer NONE. THAT IS WHAT SHAKES THE CONFIDENCE IN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM, WE ALL KNOW THAT THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF JUSTICE IN AMERICA ONE FOR THE RICH AND ONE FOR EVERY ONE ELSE.
Attorney Justin Roberts just proves this fact by going ONLY after the one taking the "LOAN" and doing nothing to the ones giving the "LOAN".
Talk about a different standard.

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11Silence_Dogood(1305 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary definition of a bribe
Bribe \'brib\ n 1 : no-interest cash “loan,” with no collateral or payment schedule

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12harleydog(201 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

I was in Cronins court before as a victim. There were several cases ahead of ours and I could not believe the way she talked to people. I wouldn't talk to my animals the way she called people names and treated them like they were not human. Yes, they made mistakes but that doesn't give ANY judge the right to speak to people the way she did. She got what she deserved and hopefully the Cafaros will get the same.

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13themanwhoknows(2 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Arrogance, deceipt, and being well connected are all the ingredients that are needed to achieving the ranks of being a public official in this valley. Mo Cronin was appointed by Pat U. who probably got the nod from Joey and Big Bill to run for mayor of Y Town. Beleive me back in the day, nobody and I mean nobody ran for office and got elected without the support of Little Joey and Big Bill. I hope the FBI really pursues this case and I know that many more individuals will be indicted. I remember once, when a certain mayor said he was finally off the hook the day Little Joey was killed. I wonder why? Pay attention!!! I will keep you all posted.

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14joebag09(232 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Another lie! It may have increased after, but, she drank and gambled before!

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15vinglass(222 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

The Cafaro family has been corrupting our public officials for some time now..Will anything ever be done to end their influence over our local government? I think Lombardo is right when he advocates a RICO investigation. And we still haven't heard everything about the Oak Hill case, what was the relationship between Cafaro& Reardon,McNally, and Sciorantino (sp)?? Wish BALTO would comment, he seems to be in the "know".

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161970mach1(1005 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

"And we still haven't heard everything about the Oak Hill case, what was the relationship between Cafaro & Reardon, McNally, and Sciortino"

Many people here seem to assume that just because they met and spoke with Cafaros they must have done something wrong. We'll see eventually, but just seems many people w/o all of the facts have already made up their minds.

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17TheLostPatrol(754 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

IMO this is not good for the Developer and his employees. I do not think they really know what the investigation is heading towards, or the extent of it. They seem to be just depending on lawyers to fill them in. It seems not to be "business as usual", but a private company in disarray, scrambling because they've been hoodwinked by some un-credible officeholders that may have squealed like pigs to save their spot in front of the hog trough. The name-drop in the courtroom may have been a snafu, and may indicate that there is more to this investigation. The RICO Act will put them in a tough situation as an ongoing operation, and their public relations spokeperson has become un-believeable.

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