and David Skolnick
Anthony M. Cafaro Sr. and the companies he headed engaged in a vast and complex web of conspiracy that attempted to influence officials to block Mahoning County’s move from Cafaro Co.-owned offices, according to newly released allegations from special prosecutors.
“Those efforts went beyond that of permissible political speech or social discourse or legitimate taxpayer interests when members of the enterprise began to commit acts ultimately constituting criminal offenses,” according to a bill of particulars in the now-dismissed criminal case.
That statement was contained in a bill related to Cafaro, the Cafaro Co., of which he is former president, and Cafaro subsidiaries, the Ohio Valley Mall Co. and The Marion Plaza Inc. and Mahoning County Commissioner John A. McNally IV.
That 79-page bill was released Thursday along with three other shorter bills of particulars pertaining to three defendants — county Auditor Michael V. Sciortino, former county Treasurer John B. Reardon and former county JFS director John Zachariah. All were charged with conspiracy. The Ohio Supreme Court ordered the records released Wednesday.
Among the never revealed allegations — but also never proven in trial:
Cafaro guaranteed a $100,000 line of credit to Andrew W. Suhar, Oakhill bankruptcy trustee, in an attempt to keep the former hospital out of the county’s hands.
Cafaro went to the residence of Boardman businessman Sam Moffie in an unsuccessful attempt to get him to file a civil lawsuit to block the county’s purchase of Oakhill.
McNally perjured himself during a deposition when he said he thought he wasn’t acquainted with attorneys for Cafaro before 2007 and when he denied discussing with Cafaro how he could help him keep the JFS lease.
The state asserted that McNally, Sciortino and Reardon were accepting bribes by accepting Cafaro attorneys’ assistance that was reflected in legal bills that totaled $876,139.
The state’s top court unanimously ordered visiting Judge William H. Wolff Jr. to unseal the bills of particulars and six redacted pages of another document in the Oakhill criminal conspiracy case, which was dismissed entirely a year ago but could be refiled.
This came after The Vindicator and 21 WFMJ-TV filed a complaint with the court seeking to make the documents public.
LAWSUIT BY MOFFIE SOUGHT
In the documents are detailed claims about Cafaro asking Moffie on Aug. 1, 2006, to file a taxpayer’s lawsuit against the county to stop the purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center.
Cafaro offered to pay Moffie’s attorney fees. Moffie didn’t file the lawsuit.
The documents also state Moffie wore a wire during an April 14, 2008, conversation with Cafaro in which they talked briefly about the potential lawsuit.
In a Thursday interview with the newspaper, Moffie expanded on the matter, including the fact the FBI had asked him to wear the wire.
He met Cafaro after a local television station interviewed Moffie about a serious car accident in July 2006 in which a person released early from the county jail crashed into him and fled the scene. The person was caught by law enforcement.
Moffie had complained to a reporter that rather than buying Oakhill, the county should use its resources to keep prisoners in jail.
The two met at Moffie’s home at Cafaro’s request. Moffie said Cafaro asked about joining forces to get a question on the November 2006 ballot to stop the county from buying Oakhill. But by the time they came to an agreement, it was after the filing deadline.
“There was nothing underhanded or sneaky about it,” Moffie said. “Cafaro later said he wanted to do it with me, but his inner circle said they didn’t trust me because I have a big mouth.”
In April 2008, Moffie said FBI agents came to his home and asked him to meet with Cafaro and wear a wire to tape their conversation.
Moffie initially declined, saying there was no reason to do it. But eventually he agreed, saying an agent offered the bureau “could do you a favor” in the future, and that it was his civic duty to help.
“I was thinking, ‘What can the FBI do for me because I haven’t done anything illegal?’” Moffie said. “As I was walking into Tony’s office I was thinking, ‘The FBI can do pigeon squat for me, and the Cafaros can destroy me.’”
So Moffie said while talking to Cafaro, he raised his shirt to show him he was wired and mouthed “I’m wired.”
Moffie said Cafaro is a “very powerful guy” who he would rather have as a “friend than an enemy.”
He added that he is “glad” he showed Cafaro he was wired.
“I hope it helped him in some way as the case came unglued and was ultimately dismissed,” Moffie said. “The FBI didn’t play fair with me and used me.”
During questioning in front of the grand jury, Moffie said he talked about the wire and telling Cafaro about it.
Moffie said he hasn’t spoken to Cafaro since that meeting at the latter’s office.
Joe Bell, director of corporate communications for the Cafaro Co., declined to comment on the specific allegations of the prosecutors, but he said they were of little current importance.
“They really don’t relate to anything but a case that doesn’t exist,” Bell said. “They are unproven and unsubstantiated.”
Although he earlier had unsealed other documents in the case, Judge Wolff kept the bills of particulars, which provide details of the charges in the 73-count county grand jury indictment, and the six pages mirroring them, sealed from public view on the grounds that their release would jeopardize the defendants’ fair-trial rights and make it difficult to select an impartial jury in Mahoning County.
The Ohio Supreme Court disagreed, however, saying numerous remedies, including thorough questioning of prospective jurors, postponement of the trial, sequestration of jurors overnight in a hotel, and moving the trial to another Ohio county were available to facilitate a fair trial.
Judge Wolff, who complied with the court order by authorizing release of the documents Thursday, declined to comment on the court’s decision.
Special prosecutors from the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio Ethics Commission dismissed the Oakhill criminal case July 11, 2011, because they were unable to obtain tapes from the FBI, which were necessary for the pretrial evidence exchange, known as discovery.
The bill of particulars for the Cafaro defendants and McNally alleges the defendants engaged in a pattern of corrupt activity between Feb. 1, 2004, and Dec. 12, 2008.
The bill alleges the pattern began with a contribution by Cafaro to McNally’s successful campaign for county commissioner that year, and ended with the filing of a campaign finance report by Atty. Martin Yavorcik on his unsuccessful Cafaro-funded challenge to county Prosecutor Paul J. Gains.
The county’s Department of Job and Family Services was a Cafaro tenant for 19 years in the Cafaro Co.-owned Garland Plaza on the city’s East Side. In July 2007, JFS moved to Oakhill, which the county bought in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 2006. Oakhill is the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center.
The county was paying more than $400,000 in annual rent to the Cafaro Co. just before JFS ended its tenancy there, according to the special prosecutors. Along with the rent, however, the county was responsible for maintenance and other costs. In 2006 — the last full year JFS was at the Cafaro Co.-owned Garland Plaza — occupancy costs to the county totaled about $1,150,000, just for JFS, including rent, security, cleaning and repairs and utilities, officials said in 2010.
Central to the special prosecutors’ allegations are a series of alleged “clandestine meetings” among the defendants and provision of “free legal services” by the Cafaro entities to the other defendants.
Among the charges in the indictment were perjury counts against Cafaro and the other current or former county officials named in the indictment based on their alleged lies under oath in pretrial depositions in the unsuccessful Cafaro taxpayer lawsuit to rescind the county’s Oakhill purchase.
Cafaro falsely denied knowledge of treasury notes, despite having paid a law firm to research the county treasurer’s right to refuse to sign checks or invest in internal debt and the county auditor’s right to refuse to sign county-issued bonds, the prosecutors said.
Cafaro sent a memorandum to Reardon, Sciortino and McNally concerning the county’s Moody ratings he received from that law firm, which he said he hoped would be helpful “in your discussions with the media regarding the financial condition of Mahoning County,” the prosecutors said.
Cafaro also falsely denied seeking to have third parties intervene to block the JFS move, prosecutors said.
The documents also mention a money-laundering charge against Cafaro related to then-county Treasurer Lisa Antonini, who was also the county Democratic Party chairwoman, asking him on Jan. 16, 2008, for a $3,000 contribution to her re-election campaign.
Cafaro gave Antonini $200 by check and $3,000 in cash, telling her he didn’t want to appear as a large donor on her campaign finance report while the Oakhill matter was pending, the prosecutors said.
Antonini gave $2,500 in cash to a mutual friend of hers and Cafaro’s, who, in turn, wrote Antonini a check for $2,500 that was deposited into Antonini’s campaign, the Cafaro bill of particulars said.
Cafaro asked Antonini, in her capacity as county Democratic Party chairwoman, to support Yavorcik for county prosecutor, the special prosecutors said.
Antonini said Cafaro was backing Yavorcik to get even with Gains over the Oakhill matter, the Cafaro bill says.
In connection with the campaign contribution, Antonini, who has since resigned as party chairwoman and county treasurer, has pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing in federal court on a charge of honest services mail fraud.
She took and failed to report the $3,000 contribution and reported only the $200 gift in a report she mailed to the Ohio Ethics Commission.