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Feds must clean up ‘cesspool’

Published: Sun, December 9, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

“The Youngstown area exemplifies the truism that rackets cannot survive without two basic conditions — the sanction of police and politicians, and an apathetic public. ... Buffoons and incompetents succeed to important civic posts. Officials hobnob openly with criminals.”

— John Kobler, Saturday Evening Post contributing editor, in a seminal article about the Mahoning Valley, “Crime Town USA,” in the March 9, 1963, edition of the magazine.

“To the people of Youngstown, Ohio:

“The time now has come for action on the part of the whole citizenry. Until each honest man is aroused, the cesspool will remain. And Youngstown will remain a shame to the nation.”

— An editorial in the March 9, 1963, edition of the Saturday Evening Post.

Although the gangland slaying of mobster Charles “Cadillac Charlie” Cavallaro and his son, Tommy, in November 1962 turned the national spotlight on the Mahoning Valley, the cesspool of corruption that the Saturday Evening Post alluded to was never cleaned up. The Mafia, until recently, continued to operate at will, while venal public officials considered bribery the foundation of governance in the region.

Mob boss Lenine Strollo, who unflinchingly testified under oath that murder was the Mafia’s business and that he ordered the hit on mob rival Ernie Biondillo, spent about 12 years in federal prison. Strollo was allowed to keep his ill-gotten gains, including the blood money, in return for providing the feds with information about the Mafia around the country.

The ex-mob boss is now retired in suburban comfort.

Strollo was one of 70 individuals, including officeholders, nabbed in the federal government’s crackdown a decade ago on government corruption and organized crime.

Ex-Congressman James A. Traficant Jr. spent eight years in the federal pen.

And yet, we wait — for the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland to tell us what, if anything, will be done with the latest chapter in the history of public corruption in the Valley. This one involves Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former South Side Medical Center.

It is owned by the county, but when two of the three commissioners wanted to move the Job and Family Services agency from the McGuffey Mall, owned by the Cafaro Co., to Oakhill, all political hell broke loose.


The feds are sitting on 2,000 hours of wiretaps and other audio and visual surveillance of individuals in and out of county government. One of the targets of the surveillance is said to be Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., retired president of the Cafaro Co.

State criminal charges were brought against Cafaro, county Commissioner John A. McNally IV, county Auditor Michael Sciortino, former Treasurer John Reardon and former director of JFS, John Zachariah.

Special prosecutors dropped the charges against Cafaro and the others after the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office refused to share the information gleaned from the surveillance. The state can re-file the charges.

But, the feds have an ace in the hole — which they must play because the good people of this region deserve no less. We aren’t the apathetic boobs described by the Saturday Evening Post.

Former Mahoning County Treasurer Lisa Antonini, who also served as chairwoman of the county Democratic Party, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in federal court of taking money from a prominent businessman and not declaring it.

The federal government has not made the identity of businessman public, but a bill of particulars filed by state prosecutors when they were handling the Oakhill Renaissance case identified Anthony M. Cafaro Sr. as the person who gave Antonini money. Prosecutors allege a quid pro quo: In return for a $200 campaign contribution check and $3,000 in cash, Antonini agreed to support Atty. Martin Yavorcik’s challenge of county Prosecutor Paul Gains, a Democrat. Yavorcik ran as an independent; he received a boatload of campaign contributions from Anthony Sr., his brother, John J., and their sister, Flora.

Antonini will receive a reduced sentence from federal Judge Sara Lioi if she cooperates fully with federal, state or local investigations and prosecutions.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland risks being accused of a cover-up if it doesn’t move this case along — sooner, rather than later.


1AtownAugie(892 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

After brining my Vindy in from the driveway, I could see it was yellow in color. Odd, I thought. Then I read this article and it was obvious why: Mr de Souza has resorted once again to "yellow journalism."

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2author50(1121 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Blah, blah, blah. Mr. DeSouza, why not do some real investigative reporting and editorial work on the amounts of money be given out by the City of Youngstown's economic department under Mckelvey, Williams and Sammarone to the bars, buildings and businesses that are making downtown Youngstown an 'oasis'?

The people of this area would be shocked at how much of their money is being used to prop up people that are connected and without said taxpayers money would fall flat on their faces.

Take a look at the roads, the water lines, the manpower for police, fire, the blight, the schools, etc and ask yourself is this the best we can do?

The answer is no, because the capital that should be going into the aforementioned is being 'invested' in bars to attract 25-35 year old with disposable incomes to the downtown watering holes on Friday and Saturday nights.

Mr. De Souza all you have to do is walk over to the cities law department and make a public records request... no FBI or US Attorney needed.

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3chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Every once in a long while I agree with Bertram. The Cleveland Federal Prosecutors need to act or at least give us a progress report before this matter recedes into the collective fog.

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4mishmash(333 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

blah blah blah, get over it...

the city is beginning to boom again, why resurect, why nay say...

the Vindy covers the front page with the Downtown resurgence info and efforts, private investors are coming forth to better the properties THAT WERE NEVER WRITTEN ABOUT by this Naysayer, then, they allow this buffoon to rehash 50 years ago, 20 years ago et al.

I dont even know who Cavalerro was, nor do i care.

Please, let us move forward.

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5maxborenstein(27 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

The problem isn't the Cafaros', it's that corrupt church on Oakhill - the one that owns the old Idora Park and lies about its intentions regarding that property to avoid paying property taxes on the blighted mess. This church's members are highly instrumental in opposing matters such as reducing the number of Youngstown Municipal Court judges and/or regionalizing the lower court system. they are an artificial minority power imposing their takings and illegitimate power over the majority masses.

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6Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

You know, I do recall saying in Mr. de Souza's column last week that his next "column" would take a few shots at the Mafia. I guess I called this one. Bertram, you are so predictable.

There are parts of me that would want the Mafia to return just to spite Bertram and put another crimp in his style. It is funny, I do recall the Vindicator endorsing certain Mafia connected politicians in the past. Wonder if Bertram would care to comment on those endorsements.

"In a few weeks, we will go back to Mafia bashing, and then take another few shots at Traficant. That should put us about two months into FY 2013, closing in on filing deadlines, so naturally we will then take a course to remind everyone of why John Kasich is such a bad governor and bash Republicans again, despite there not being an elected Republican officeholder in Mahoning County.

Which will bring us back to bashing the local GOP, despite Mr. de Souza's lack of basic comprehension of understanding of running campaigns and understanding numbers across the county."

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7wraz(15 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

How pathetic for this pansy hack to not only continue attacking Anthony Cafaro after the witch hunt was thrown out long ago but to insult a family dealing with a loss of a dear family member this weekend This clown doesn't seem to want to write about a corrupt political move that cost tax payers millions trying to go after him with nothing but hatred. Talk about cleaning up a cesspool lets hope the Vindicator Enquirer finds a job more suitable for this pansy hack like delivering the paper to the 25 people who still buy this crap

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81970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Feds should either charge people in this mess or give an explanation of why they did not.

If feds don't charge anyone, feds should give the state the tapes needed for the state to refile their charges.

If feds give state the tapes and state does not refile charges, then state should apologize to those who they did charge originally.

If feds do not charge anyone and continue to refuse to give the tapes to the state, then feds owe everyone an explanation of why.

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9ytownredux(117 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

I agree 100 percent with 1970mach1!!!! The Feds need to show their case, or allow access to the State to refile it's charges with the feds evidence tapes. As much as we like to cry city corrupt politics, the Feds are the one's holding the cards for justice either way in the Oakhill matter.

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10andersonathan(687 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Thank God there is not a "R"" involved then De Snooza could track it back to GWB and blame him

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