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Feds won’t get a pass on probe

Published: Sun, March 10, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

In response to this writer’s December column urging the FBI and federal prosecutors to clean up the “cesspool” of government corruption in the Mahoning Valley, a member of the criminal justice community called with a reassuring comment: “Something is going to happen in March.”

The clock is ticking.

However, if there are no indictments in the next three weeks, and if former Mahoning County Treasurer Lisa Antonini gets a tap on the wrist from federal Judge Sara Lioi, the message will be clear: Crime pays in the Valley.

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland should know that honest residents aren’t going to settle for vague explanations or a refusal to release important documents that would shed light on the cesspool.

In a previous government corruption investigation, officeholders went to prison for accepting bribes. Unfortunately, nothing happened to the individuals who paid the bribes.

But that wasn’t all. The FBI and federal prosecutors refused to make public the names of the bribe-payers, many of whom are still among us.

Positions of power

As has been noted in this space on numerous occasions, the corruption of government officials does not occur in a vacuum. To be sure, this region has had more than its share of greedy, immoral officeholders, but it also has too many residents in positions of power and influence who believe government exists to satisfy their craven desires.

That’s why the current investigation of public corruption will not die — even if the feds call it quits.

For one thing, there’s the matter of Antonini, the former county treasurer and chairwoman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, who has pleaded guilty in federal court to taking money from a prominent businessman and not declaring it. The feds have not identified the businessman, but court documents show it is Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., retired president of the Cafaro Co.

Judge 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.

That was a year and nine months ago. Antonini either has provided a boatload of information that will result in wholesale prosecutions, or she has been given a pass.

Let us not forget that the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland are sitting on 2,000 hours of wiretaps and other audio and visual surveillance of individuals in and out of county government. One of the targets of the surveillance is said to be Cafaro.

The feds have revealed that the information gleaned from their investigation has a bearing on the state of Ohio’s criminal case against Cafaro, Mahoning County Commissioner John A. McNally IV, county Auditor Michael Sciortino, former Treasurer John Reardon and former director of the county Job and Family Services, John Zachariah.

Because the federal government would not provide the information in its possession to the special prosecutors and defense lawyers, the state dropped the criminal charges against Cafaro et al. The charges can be refiled at a later date.

Political battle

The state’s case was triggered by the political battle over the relocation of the Job and Family Services offices from the Cafaro Co.-owned McGuffey Mall to the county-owned Oakhill Renaissance Place (the former South Side Medical Center.) Two of the three commissioners voted to move JFS, but McNally did not. Instead, he joined other county officials in opposition.

Unless the federal government files its own charges against Cafaro and the others, the special prosecutors in the state case would be well within their rights to demand the surveillance material.

As was noted recently, there are reports of a special federal grand jury in Cleveland looking into government corruption in Mahoning County.

Nonetheless, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine should make it clear to U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach that if the federal government does not bring charges against anyone, he would expect the transcripts and other documents relating to the 2,000 hours of surveillance to be turned over to him.

DeWine should use the information as the basis for refiling the charges in the JFS/Oakhill Renaissance case. That way, the public will have access to what the feds uncovered.


11970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

I genuinely appreciate that you periodically bring this up to keep some attention on the issue.

However, your statement "The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland should know that honest residents aren’t going to settle for vague explanations or a refusal to release important documents that would shed light on the cesspool" unfortunately rings hollow.

Proof of that is you are the ONLY person in the media who EVER brings this up any more.

And what are these "honest residents" going to do? How is it they are "not going to settle"?They are powerless other than voting, and we have seen what that has brought us.

Hopefully you'll write again about the sheriff and the person that offered him money.Not necessarily because I think he did anything wrong, but just so officeholders current and future know that someone is watching.

Too many people around here think the mafia history is "cool" and really don't care. I find the mafia history interesting, but also find it disgusting.

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2TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Flick: What if no indictments ever come down on McNally, will you write an open letter of apology to his family requesting their forgiveness for your comments and acknowledge that you were wrong. At that point, will you come clean?

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3msfreeh(6 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

February 22, 2013
FBI agents caught sexting and dating drug dealers
Dating drug dealers, harassing ex-boyfriends with naked pictures, and pointing guns at pet dogs: these were just a few of the offences committed recently by serving FBI agents, according to internal documents.
The US provided officers from the Egyptian secret police with training at the FBI, despite allegations that they routinely tortured detainees and suppressed political opposition.

Disciplinary files from the Bureau's Office of Professional Responsibility record an extraordinary range of transgressions that reveal the chaotic personal lives of some of America's top law enforcers.

One male agent was sacked after police were called to his mistress's house following reports of domestic incident. When officers arrived they found the agent "drunk and uncooperative" and eventually had to physically subdue him and wrestle away his loaded gun.

A woman e-mailed a "nude photograph of herself to her ex-boyfriend's wife" and then continued to harass the couple despite two warnings from senior officials. The Bureau concluded she was suffering from depression related to the break-up and allowed her to return to work after 10 days.

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4kurtw(1829 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Well, my view is that the legacy of corruption in the Mahoning Valley is based on the simple fact that local politics are run, and always have been run, by the Democrat Machine. Wherever there is one party rule- whether it be Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union under Stalin- corruption is the inevitable result.

If Youngstowners want to improve their Community there is one simple step they can take to do so: VOTE REPUBLICAN!

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5kurtw(1829 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

for: msfreeh

I don't understand your post at all. The FBI is a large organization and in every large organization there are "rotten apples". So what?

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6TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Flick" I see you 're using the 2nd grade "Oh yeah, well so are you" phrase and showing your intellectual originality by simply copying my phrase which plainly states that you are an idiot, but Flick their is more to it with you. Please, let me explain: You continue to WITHOUT PROOF bash a group of individuals because, and if you're honest you'll admit this, for years they have beaten the candidates you support at the poles, AND for the most part, will continue to. I simply asked and if you weren't such a P---Y you'd answer. If no indictments come down on John McNally, will you write an open letter of apology stating you were WRONG and that you are contrite for your libelous statements? Surely you admit he was vindicated at the state level because of lack of evidence and the fact that the Prosecutor (I bet you adore that guy) inappropriately used, with the assistance of George Tablack who took a lot of Cafaro money when he ran for Congress, the power of his office to harm his political opponents. Therefore no indictments, and by the way its been almost 2 years, by the FEDS would mean I am correct in asserting that you indeed are an IDIOT.

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7ytown1(398 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

TERRAPINST sounds a lot like the Party Chair or at least someone who should know better than to throw libelous comments around themselves.

Bottom line is the Cafaro clan and all that their money has bought in this valley still equals a big black eye for the valley. When we ever learn to walk away from the envelopes and do the right thing for the community for a change.

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8TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Just answer the question. No indictments Filck admits he was wrong and apologizes to McNally and his family. Easy or so Flick understands, might have trouble with all those vowels-EZ. That would mean he's wrong-no one has mentioned Cafaro in this post and the continued dancing is almost acknowledging that you don't care if its proven-you just pray it is. That's really supporting the community and good govt. Lets convict the guy without proof-bet if that was a member of your family you'd want proof.

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9TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

YTOWN Boy, well put. It is amazing that Bertram continues to beat this tired, boring, settled, un-newsworthy case. However, if you speak to some of Bertram's colleagues he is professionally known for lacking "News-sense". Everybody knows he just reprints and sensationalizes stories that at one time held the interest of the 15 "Dan Ryan" type readers. It's funny that this guy who worships Paul Gains and George Tablack NEVER showed any journalistic objectivity by printing something critical of his babies. Everybody knows he was their trumpet because they had a hotline to his desk and leaked every bit of sensitive information they could. However, well put.

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10kurtw(1829 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Well, Bert must be doing something right because he generates a lot of response- some of it actually coherent! The fatal flaw in a columnist is putting his audience to sleep (publishers have been known to dismiss writers for that- snorers don't buy newspapers!) and Bert doesn't do that! He stirs up the pot.

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11kurtw(1829 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Actually, the kind of animosity generated by DeSouza's columns dealing with public corruption in the Mahoning Valley remind me of poking a stick into a Hornet's Nest. You wonder who the people protesting so loudly are and what some of their connections are- and why so defensive? Unless criminality is is so deeply imbued into the local sub-culture that we don't even recognize it anymore. It's become a kind of heroism- like Robin Hood and his Merry Band.

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121970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

If nothing else, the feds should do a press release like they did in Cleveland to help Ed Fitzgerald's campaign for governor by saying he is not a target of an investigation.

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