If the FBI wants to avoid being ridiculed for its attempt to nab Anthony M. Cafaro Sr. on government corruption charges, it will persuade federal prosecutors to make public the 2,000 hours of wiretaps and other audio and visual surveillance of individuals in and out of Mahoning County government. One of the targets of the surveillance is said to be Cafaro, the retired president of the Cafaro Co.
Absent such incontrovertible evidence, county residents will be left to marvel at the FBI’s incompetence in having one of this region’s leading gadflies, Sam Moffie, wear a wire prior to a meeting with Cafaro.
Moffie’s involvement with the FBI is laid out in a bill of particulars prepared by state prosecutors to support criminal charges brought against Cafaro, county Commissioner John A. McNally IV, county Auditor Michael Sciortino, former Treasurer John Reardon and former director of the Job and Family Services agency, John Zachariah.
The special prosecutors dropped the charges against Cafaro et al a year ago after the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office refused to share the information gleaned from the surveillance. The state can refile the charges.
But last week’s public release of several court documents relating to the state’s case puts the federal government on the hot seat.
By having Moffie wear a hidden microphone for his meeting with Cafaro, the FBI has acknowledged that one of the wealthiest men in the Valley is a person of interest.
Indeed, the April 24, 2011, column in this space focused on a letter written by FBI Special Agent in Charge C. Frank Figliuzzi and signed by John E. Stoli, supervisory senior resident agent of the FBI’s Youngstown office, to Cafaro’s lawyer, George Stamboulidis.
The key paragraph in the letter states: “To the extent that there are other on-going investigations relative to the conduct of your client, an invitation to discuss the resolution of those matters is sincerely extended to you and your client.”
It is not known whether Stamboulidis and Cafaro accepted the FBI’s invitation, but federal prosecutors do have an ace in the hole: Lisa Antonini, former county Treasurer and Mahoning County Democratic Party chairwoman.
Antonini, who is also featured in the bill of particulars filed by state prosecutors, pleaded guilty a year ago to taking money from a businessman and not declaring it.
Although the businessman has not been officially identified by the feds, there had been strong indications that it is Cafaro.
The bill of particulars identified Cafaro 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 and received huge campaign contributions from Anthony Cafaro, his brother, John J., and sister, Flora. The three shelled out $40,000 each.
They wanted Gains gone because he refused to go along with the Cafaro plan to block the county from purchasing the Oakhill Renaissance Place complex and moving the Job and Family Services agency to it from the Cafaro-owned Garland Plaza.
Antonini is awaiting sentencing by federal Judge Sara Lioi and will receive a reduced prison term if she fully cooperates with any federal, state or local investigations and prosecutions.
Now that the bill of particulars has clearly established the Antonini-Cafaro connection, federal prosecutors must not delay in bringing the case to a close.
The decision by the special prosecutors in the state case to drop the charges against Cafaro et al must not be the last word on this sordid tale of government corruption in Mahoning County.
The FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office obviously are sitting on a gold mine of information as a result of the wiretaps and audio and visual surveillance. They should either use it to develop their cases, or should hand over the results to the special state prosecutors so the charges against Cafaro Sr. and the others can be refiled.
Postscript: In reaction to the details about his wearing a wire being made public, Moffie told The Vindicator that he showed Cafaro the bug when he met with the business tycoon.
Here’s egg on your face, FBI.