Cafaro sought to block Oakhill abandonment, bill alleges

By Peter H. Milliken

and David Skolnick


One of the allegations against Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., former president of the Cafaro Co., in the now-dismissed Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal conspiracy case pertains to lying under oath about a line of credit for Oakhill.

Prosecutors said Cafaro falsely denied offering to guarantee a $100,000 line of credit to the Oakhill Renaissance Place bankruptcy trustee to prevent the abandonment of Oakhill in May 2006.

Prosecutors allege he told that lie in a pretrial deposition in his unsuccessful civil taxpayer lawsuit to rescind Mahoning County’s purchase of Oakhill.

That abandonment “would have cleared the way for Mahoning County to obtain the Oakhill building on a fast track,” the prosecutors said.

The information was made public Thursday after the Ohio Supreme Court agreed with The Vindicator and 21 WFMJ-TV that the visiting judge in the Oakhill criminal case had improperly sealed documents tied to the case.

Also, local businessman Sam Moffie, who was asked by Cafaro to file a taxpayer lawsuit and didn’t, told the newspaper Thursday that Cafaro also had asked him to be the person who was assigned the $100,000 note.

Moffie, who was having financial problems at the time, said he declined the request.

Joe Bell, director of corporate communications for the Cafaro Co., declined to comment on the Chase Bank loan guarantee.

“We really don’t have any interest in debating the minutiae of these documents,” he said.

“To do that day after day is sort of like shadow-boxing a fable,” Bell added.

James Pitzer, a Chase Bank senior vice president mentioned as a party to the loan transaction, said he was not authorized to comment on the matter.

Emily M. Smith, a Columbus-based Chase Bank spokeswoman, declined to answer The Vindicator’s questions about it, including whether such loan guarantees by outsiders are the norm in the banking industry.

The bankruptcy trustee, Atty. Andrew W. Suhar, could not be reached for comment, and his lawyer in the Oakhill bankruptcy case, Melissa Macejko, said through a secretary that she did not want to speak to The Vindicator or its reporter.

The Oakhill special prosecutors reported a Chase representative acknowledged that the bank’s underwriting department recommended against lending $100,000 to Suhar “and that the line of credit would not have been made on its own merits, if not for the relationship between the Cafaro Co. and the bank.”

At 2:28 p.m. on May 23, 2006, Suhar emailed Pitzer, saying: “Jim, Unless I receive 100K commitment from your bank by 3 p.m., I will proceed with seeking abandonment of the property.”

A May 23 note consistent with Cafaro’s handwriting said: “w/Jim Pitzer — I need a loan comm. NOW!” the prosecutors said.

Some 92 minutes after Suhar’s email, an unnamed lawyer for Suhar emailed James Dobran, a Cafaro Co. lawyer, saying: “Mr Dobran, We met with Jim Pitzer and received a commitment from Chase about 30 minutes ago.”

Three days later, Cafaro opened and deposited $100,000 into a new Chase savings account, just one day after the bank formally signed the line of credit agreement with Suhar, the prosecutors said.

On May 23, 2006, Cafaro faxed a memorandum to Lt. Gov. Bruce Johnson, who was also Ohio Department of Development director, saying Suhar intended to give Chase a “priming lien” ahead of all creditors, including ODOD’s first mortgage lien.

“I respectfully request that the AGs [attorney general’s] office be asked not to oppose the priming lien because if they do so, the trustee/bankruptcy court will be forced to abandon the building, and it will be taken over by the Mahoning County Commissioners,” Cafaro wrote to Johnson.

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