When Lisa Antonini, as the trea- surer of Mahoning County, accepted $3,000 from a businessman in 2008, promised to support his interests and to take official action on his behalf, and failed to disclose the money on required campaign finance reports, she joined a long list of Mahoning Valley officeholders who have been bribed.
For that, Antonini, former chairwoman of the county Democratic Party, will spend five months in the federal penitentiary, five months of home confinement and then will be under supervised release for two years. She also must pay a $2,000 fine and perform 150 hours of community service.
Antonini, who pleaded guilty in June 2011 to one count of honest-services mail fraud, was promised a reduced sentence by U.S. District Court Judge Sara Lioi if she fully cooperated with any federal, state or local investigations or prosecutions.
During her sentencing Wednesday in federal court in Akron, the prosecutor told the judge that the former county treasurer and party chairwoman had shown significant cooperation before and after her plea and recommended a reduced sentence.
Antonini was appropriately contrite as she stood before Lioi, saying, “I let myself, my family, and the community down. I was afforded a great opportunity and I blew it. I am sorry and hope in some way, standing here and trying to cooperate makes amends for wrongs I have done.”
Nonetheless, the judge rightly concluded that some time behind bars was appropriate, given that Antonini violated the trust of the residents of the county.
Given what federal prosecutors said in court, we would expect the government to come down hard not only on the businessman who gave her the bribe, but any other individuals in the Mahoning Valley who have participated in the corruption of local government.
As case after case has shown, it isn’t just officeholders and others on the public payroll who have larceny in their hearts; there have been individuals in our community who have been willing to use their wealth and/or political power to improperly benefit from government.
In Antonini’s case, although the businessman has not been identified by prosecutors, The Vindicator, through board of elections records, has concluded that Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., retired president of the Cafaro Co., is the source of the money.
Although Antonini did not report a $3,000 cash contribution on Jan. 16, 2008, to her primary campaign for county treasurer, she did report a $200 contribution by check the businessman gave her on that same day. Her campaign finance report shows that the check came from Cafaro.
This case brings to mind another in which an elected official was convicted of two felony counts of honest-services mail fraud.
Former county Common Pleas Court Judge Maureen Cronin spent 27 months in federal prison, the maximum she could have received, after pleading guilty to taking and concealing an $18,000 no-interest cash “loan” with no collateral or payment schedule from Flora Cafaro, an officer with the Cafaro Co.
At the time, the company had more than 50 civil lawsuits in Cronin’s court. The money was used to pay off gambling debts.
She was released from prison in March 2012 and was under three months’ supervised release.
While we applaud the convictions of corrupt officeholders and other public officials, we do believe it’s time for the FBI and U.S. Attorneys Office to go after the corrupters of government.