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Why did FBI interview Sciortino?

Published: Sun, July 7, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

It was just five lines in the 21-page report on the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office Internal Investigation conducted by the Summit County’s Sheriff’s Office, but the message they impart has far-reaching consequences. Indeed, you could go out on a limb and say that the federal government’s probe of public corruption in Mahoning County is very much alive.

Here’s what the report said:

“On May 31, 2013, Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents, Deane Hassman and Thomas A. Donnelly conducted an interview with Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino regarding the incident on May 26, 2013, that involved him and personnel from the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office. The typed interview is attached to this report.”

The typed interview was not attached to copies of the report given to press by Sheriff Jerry Greene. And true to form, the FBI agents aren’t going to share the details of the Sciortino interview with reporters.

Thus, we can only speculate. The FBI-county auditor tete a tete was prompted by a May 26 traffic in which Sciortino was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, but was subsequently charged only with failure to drive within lanes and was given a ride home by then sheriff’s department Commander Thomas J. Assion.

The rotten fish smell emanating from the incident prompted Sheriff Greene to seek an independent investigation into the actions of Assion and other members of his staff. As a result of the findings of investigators, Greene demoted Assion to his previous rank of sergeant.


And given that the object of the former commander’s affection was Sciortino, let’s not forget that he was one of five individuals charged criminally by the state in a government corruption case.

The state’s case against Sciortino, Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., former president of the Cafaro Co., former county Commissioner John A. McNally IV, former county Treasurer John Reardon and former county Job and Family Services Director John Zachariah was triggered by the political battle over the relocation of the JFS offices from the Cafaro-owned McGuffey Mall to the county-owned Oakhill Renaissance Place (formerly South Side Medical Center).

The state dropped the charges after the FBI revealed in open court that it is sitting on 2,000 hours of wiretaps and other audio and visual surveillance of individuals in and out of county government.

One target of the surveillance is said to be Cafaro. If that’s so, the other defendants in the state case can be assumed also to be detected by the feds.

Then there’s the issue of former county Treasurer Lisa Antonini’s sentencing in federal court. She has pleaded guilty to taking money from a prominent businessman and not declaring it. The feds have not identified the businessman, but court documents show it is Cafaro Sr.

U.S. District Court Judge Sara Lioi has put off sentencing Antonini and has indicated the former Democratic Party leader will be treated leniently if she cooperates fully with federal, state or local investigations or prosecutions.

More than two years later, the question still looms: What names has she provided to the federal government?

So, when the internal investigative report of the county sheriff’s department reveals that two FBI agents interviewed Sciortino about the “incident ... that involved him and personnel from the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office,” they were obviously continuing their probe of government corruption in Mahoning County.

Absent the FBI transcript of the interview, let’s imagine the exchange based on Sciortino’s history.

FBI: Mr. Sciortino, you received special treatment from sheriff’s personnel that’s not available to the common person. Was there a quid pro quo?

Sciortino: I never asked to be given a ride home, but only a fool would pass up the chance of avoiding a drunken- driving charge. I’m just a likeable kind of guy.

FBI: Why do you think that Commander Assion would intervene on your behalf? Do you and he have a mutual friend who exerts a great deal of political influence in the Valley?

Sciortino: I don’t know why TJ decided to get involved, but I’m grateful to him. I think it’s unfair he was demoted by the sheriff. He was just being a nice guy. What’s the point in being on the public payroll if you can’t do favors for each other? Did I say that? I take it back. Delete it. I was only joking.


11970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years ago

Maybe I am being naïve, but it wouldn't be surprising if Sciortino didn't have a clue what was going on until Assion got there. He seems to have been pretty hammered.

Someone else asked a good question in another thread:
When did Greene decide to have the investigation? Before or after being questioned by news media about the event?

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2kurtw(1828 comments)posted 3 years ago

One question, Bertram. All the politicians you list above being investigated for corruption, How Many are Republicans?

Obviously, none. The Mahoning Valley, in it's politics, is the equivalent of a Banana Republic- that's all we are- one group of people- the corrupt Democrat (sic) Machine running things for their own benefit.

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3author50(1121 comments)posted 3 years ago

FBI=Joke. What could they have offered Sciortino? TJ the DD already took care of that.

I have written it before and I'll write again. In Mahoning County due process begins and ends when law enforcement finds out what your last name is.

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41970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years ago

Why do people
think Greene is a hero?

The real hero is the person, presumably from the sheriff's office, who tipped off the media.

We need more information to determine how Greene should be evaluated. And it could very turn out that he did everything great, but more info would be helpful.

Greene after all promoted the two central figures in this event after he was elected sheriff. What was wrong with the other two people who already held those positions?

Having the Ohio AG involved is a good idea now that DeWine (and Cordray too) have restored dignity to that office.

*Did Greene decide to have the investigation before or after media contacted him?
*Why did Greene react so sourly when he was asked by a reporter if anyone engaged in obstruction of justice? I don't know if anyone did or not, but Greene's reaction sure was negative.
*If you get a $19,000 pay cut with demotion, are you able to make any of that up through overtime?

Shame about all of this is that Allen, Assion, etc. probably really do a good job in crime fighting and dealing with low life on the street.

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5papa1(711 comments)posted 3 years ago

sciortino will now be remembered as a drunk driver who endangered the lives of innocent people. and he was enabled by the sheriffs' department.

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6kurtw(1828 comments)posted 3 years ago

It's all window-dressing and it leads nowhere- never has in this area. A's demotion, how long is that going to last- until the heat is off and then he'll be up there where he was before. Green probably said, over beers, "Well, T.J., you know, I'm going to have to drop you a grade for awhile until all this is over. I hate to do it to an old buddy, it's a big pay-cut- but, the Press are after me- I have to do something to make it look good- won't be long, until all this blows over- you know the schmoes around here have pretty short memories- and I'll bring you up again. Hey, how about another round- I'll put it on my expense account!"

Something like that. It's all window dressing and it leads nowhere...

P.S. I used the "A" word to describe Commander- er, Ex-commander Assion- but it wasn't his last name I had in mind- let me see, what could it be- another "A" word but if I use it the Vindy will Censor me!

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