Former Trumbull commissioner Vannelli pleads guilty to federal charges

Staff report


Former Trumbull County Commissioner Ted Vannelli has pleaded guilty to federal charges that he participated in a fraud against a former Eastlake credit union that resulted in one of the largest collapses of a credit union in U.S. history.

Vannelli, 66, of Willoughby, entered his plea in Cleveland federal court April 10 before Judge John R. Adams and will be sentenced later.

Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio said Vannelli participated in a fraud with his son-in-law, Eddy Zai, and a Cleveland-area accountant.

In all, 19 people were charged in the case.

According to Dettlebach, Zai conspired with others, including Anthony Raguz, the former chief operating officer of the St. Paul Croatian Federal Credit Union, to submit false loan documents to the credit union, defraud the credit union of approximately $16.7 million, and pay bribes and kickbacks to Raguz.

In return, Raguz used his position at the credit union to approve numerous loans to Zai and the companies he controlled, according to the indictment. The conduct took place between December 2003 and March 2010.

Zai and Vannelli gave Raguz numerous cash payments, usually in the form of $100 bills concealed in envelopes and hand- delivered to Raguz at the credit union’s offices, the indictment said.

The payments were made to both induce Raguz to approve additional fraudulent loan applications and to reward Raguz for having previously approved false loan applications, according to the indictment.

Vannelli served as Trumbull County commissioner from 1978 to 1982. He built a mansion in Southington Township on 62 acres that boxer Mike Tyson later owned in 1995 and 1996.

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