By Peter H. Milliken
Ivan Maldonado did not benefit financially from the crimes he committed while he worked at Youngstown State University, but his offenses were “hate crimes” against his employer, a prosecutor said.
“He just hated his employer and would do all he could to make its life miserable,” said Robert E. Bush Jr., during his opening statement on Monday in Maldonado’s criminal bench trial in the YSU payroll scandal.
Maldonado’s lawyer, J. Gerald Ingram, said his client is innocent, however.
“The testimony and evidence will establish that there’s nothing improper or criminal,” Ingram said. “The evidence will require verdicts of not guilty on all counts.”
A Mahoning County grand jury indicted Maldonado, 44, of Euclid Boulevard, a former university payroll assistant and former president of the Association of Classified Employees union at YSU, on 10 counts of theft, two counts each of falsification and theft in office and one count each of tampering with records and grand theft.
The charges, which cover the period from 1998 to 2009, pertain to alleged illegal manipulation of tuition remission, a wage garnishment, and Ohio Public Employees Retirement System credit.
The case is being heard by visiting Judge Thomas Pokorny of common pleas court.
Maldonado is accused of arranging for his nephew, Anthony, to receive more than $30,000 in unauthorized free tuition to attend YSU over six years by falsely claiming that Anthony was a dependent living with him.
Ingram said, however, that Anthony Maldonado was actually a dependent of Ivan Maldonado and lived with his uncle.
Ingram said Ivan declared Anthony as a dependent on his federal income-tax returns, and the IRS never challenged Anthony’s dependent status. “It meets every test required by the Internal Revenue Service,” Ingram said.
Anthony Maldonado, 27, of Boardman, who Bush said would testify in this trial, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor falsification and was placed on four years’ probation and ordered to make restitution.
Ivan Maldonado was also charged with manipulating payroll figures to reduce a garnishment for his boss, Ron Granger, 47, of Girard, from $500 to $121 per pay period.
To reduce the garnishment, Granger opened an account at a local credit union and made deposits into that account to reduce his net income, Bush told the judge.
“The defendant used this fabricated net amount to compute the garnishment withholding,” Bush said.
Ingram, however, told the judge he’d hear testimony that it was YSU’s policy and practice not to include credit union contributions in calculating disposable income for garnishment purposes.
Granger will testify he didn’t coerce Ivan Maldonado or offer him anything of value to adjust the garnishment, Ingram said.
Granger, the former university payroll manager, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of dereliction of duty in December 2010 and was placed on a year’s probation.
The last category of charges against Ivan Maldonado alleges he falsified documents to arrange retirement credit for 10 full-time university employees for earlier part-time employment, for which those employees had waived retirement credit.
None of those 10 people have been charged with any crime. The retirement system has adjusted their benefits to the correct level, Bush said.
At YSU, the waiver forms weren’t always filled out, sometimes lacked a PERS validation stamp, and sometimes were completed on the wrong form, lost or misplaced, Ingram said.
Maldonado “was hampered by the fact that the payroll office was way understaffed and that the records-keeping was abysmal,” Ingram added.