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Judge Lioi will be on the hot seat



Published: Sun, September 22, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)


By the time Lisa Antonini, former Mahoning County treasurer and ex-county Democratic Party chairwoman, stands before U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi to receive her sentence, two years and five months will have passed since she pleaded guilty to taking money from a prominent Mahoning Valley businessman and not declaring it — a felony crime. Why wasn’t Antonini carted off to prison immediately after her conviction in June 2011? Because the mediocre county treasurer and inept party chairwoman suddenly became one of the most important players in the federal government’s investigation of public corruption in the Valley. At least that’s the impression left by the judge when she agreed to postpone sentencing. Lioi told Antonini that she would be treated leniently if she cooperated fully with federal, state and local investigations or prosecutions.

Twenty-nine months is a long time to avoid judgment day, which means Antonini has either been a more valuable government informant than even former Valley Mafia boss Lenine Strollo, who avoided life imprisonment by becoming a government snitch, or she has been party to one of the greatest criminal-justice scams perpetrated by the court and the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland.

Government corruption

The demeanor and attitude of Judge Lioi and federal prosecutors Nov. 13 in U.S. District Court in Akron will shed a lot of light on how seriously they’re taking this case or other cases of government corruption in the Valley.

If the judge decides that Antonini has earned her freedom, then she or the U.S. attorneys have a responsibility to the public to reveal the information provided by the defendant.

To be sure, federal judges, prosecutors and the FBI consider themselves more powerful than God and are, therefore, answerable to no one. That said, Judge Lioi and the others must know that their credibility is on the line.

There already are rumblings that the prominent businessman who gave Antonini $3,000 in cash — supposedly for her campaign for treasurer in 2008 — has friends in high places.

While the feds have not identified him, court documents show it’s Anthony Cafaro Sr., retired president of the Cafaro Co.

Indeed, 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 Mahoning County government. One target is said to be Cafaro.

It is instructive that FBI agents revealed that the information gleaned from their investigation has a bearing on Ohio’s criminal case against Cafaro; former Mahoning County Commissioner John A. McNally IV, Democratic nominee for Youngstown mayor; county Auditor Michael Sciortino; former Treasurer John Reardon; and former director of the county Job and Family Services agency John Zachariah.

Because the feds would not provide the information in their possession to the special state prosecutors and defense lawyers in the so-called Oakhill Renaissance Place case, the criminal charges against Cafaro et al were dropped. The charges can be refiled.

The state’s case 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, the former South Side Medical Center. McNally voted against moving JFS, while the other two commissioners at the time, David Ludt and Anthony Traficanti, voted for the relocation.

The criminal charges filed against Cafaro and the others include racketeering.

Grubby fingers

So, when Antonini appears before Judge Lioi on Nov. 13, what transpires in the court will not only be about a grubby-fingered former public official. The public corruption culture of the Mahoning Valley will be in the spotlight.

Without the intervention of the federal and state criminal justice systems, this region’s politics will continue to be a “cesspool” — the word used in 1963 by the Saturday Evening Post to describe the Youngstown area’s politics.

And yet, a decade ago 70 individuals, including a sheriff, a prosecutor, judges, other officeholders and mobsters were nabbed in a federal crackdown.

The imprisonment of former Congressman James A. Traficant Jr. for using his public position for personal gain has come to define us.

Judge Lioi cannot be blind to this reality. She, along with federal prosecutors, must strike a blow for honest government in the Mahoning Valley.


Comments

1author50(1121 comments)posted 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Over/under on those charged with state crimes from Oakhill being indicted by FEDS?

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2Kernaloftruth(86 comments)posted 11 months, 4 weeks ago

2:1 they don't indict, and contrary to what Flick says, I bet no one is sweating anything at this point because there isn't a case to be made. Everyone wants justice, but they can't even define what the crimes are.

Racketeering? That's pretty ambiguous. Two people deciding to park in a "No Parking Zone" would qualify under RICO if you really wanted to waste the taxpayers time. It is a catch all charge. But even under the RICO statutes there isn't a case to be made here.

Was McNally and Sciortino justified in being against the move to Oak Hill? Given the coverage in the media about how the Oak Hill fund is now broke, how there is little chance of bringing in new tenants, and how the building is still largely unfinished, I think that more than makes their case that such a move was probably not in the best interests of the taxpayers. Anthony Cafaro didn't have to be involved to see the costs of moving to Oak Hill outweighed the benefits.

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3gdog4766(1489 comments)posted 11 months, 4 weeks ago

I am not defending Cafaro by any means. With that said, can't he just say that along with the others she asked him for a loan and then wouldn't pay it back? Then it's not a bribe. And when Bert called Lisa an iept party chair, he is dead on! I was involved with the party at that time and she was terrible. Morley planted her when he had to leave on the Feds insistence and she was a horrible replacement. As a chair at one time she wouldn't endorse as chair some state party matters. Instead even sided with the republicans. But could you see if McNally is elected mayor then indicted it will be Chance all over again.

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4jailbirds93(16 comments)posted 11 months, 4 weeks ago

The Kernal is getting a demotion! There WILL be indictments and it goes far beyond Oakhill.

Elected office holders, many of their staff, attorneys including a famous party chairman, Judges, many people at the Board of Fixed Elections, the list goes on and on of who could be indicted in the next few weeks.

And since county government is so tainted it's a good thing they will all go to federal court and be convicted there. Of course many will roll over like Lisa and just plead guilty (as they should).

The real problem for the feds is how to round up these people and process them all at the same time.

If you belong to one of the fore mentioned groups and see a caravan of black vans driving around town, start running!!!

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5Silence_Dogood(1341 comments)posted 11 months, 4 weeks ago

It was my impression that the Fed's don't sentence until AFTER the convicted testifies in a court room against a defendant. Unless the Federal Government is going to have charges filled and a Courtroom trial within the next two months, this issue is OVER.
Bert you should already know this, are you just being lazy and printing the same old dribble. Try something NEW for a change, it is no wonder the Vindy readership is falling like a rock thrown off the Empire State Building.

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6Kernaloftruth(86 comments)posted 11 months, 4 weeks ago

If someone could put into plain language what law exactly McNally or Sciortino was guilty of breaking, I would love to hear it. All the electorate knows is that there was an indictment, but the average person could not tell you what the indictment was all about.

This is different than 1999. The charges brought against those officeholders were pretty clear compared to the Bill of Particulars that was in the original indictment of McNally and Sciortino. The fact is those charges were so ambiguous and subject to interpretation that no jury would ever have convicted--they would have had to spend half the case explaining what exactly those charges meant.

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7candystriper(575 comments)posted 11 months, 4 weeks ago

massive fines...no jail time

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8ytownboy22(65 comments)posted 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Poor Bertram screeches like a broken record over and over about the same old gas. Has he NO respect for the process? If it is as he claims, why must he preach to a federal judge? Why must he scold law enforcement and prosecutors? If he knows more than they know why doesn't he come clean? He is bitter an is simply whining about an outcome he does not favor. Judge Loi owes that morn nothing but to do her job. She can't pile on more than has been served. Here is a question for which I would like an answer: is it possible that opponents of Oak Hill were right even if their position was the same as Cafaro?? Get over it Bertram. Let it go or run for office...

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9jailbirds93(16 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

@dumbdem,

The state charges did not stick because the feds wouldn't share their evidence with the state, not because there isn't a case.

FYI, the FBI has visited the Board of Fixed Elections at lease twice in the past year taking documents with them. Do you think they did that for nothing? I don't.

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10gdog4766(1489 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Look, the two incidents at the BOE were all Betras doing. One of the people at the BOE worked Rimideos campaign and everyone thought she'd go with her. This caused a problem when the employee did not go and Dave had promised her job to one of his cronies. So the board tried twice to fire the employee. The first time the board said she did something wrong, they got Gaines involved. Wellington investigated and concluded that the employee did nothing wrong. Months later they tried again and this time the state backed the employee again and blamed the leadership of the board for the problem. I would love to be this employees attorney if they ever do succeed in setting this person up for firing.

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11Silence_Dogood(1341 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

gdod
Are you saying that Betras conspired to violate this woman's civil rights. If that is the case the Vindy should be all over this story. The BOE is a public entity and as such the taxpayers will be footing the bill when the lawsuits start flying, and if what you said is true they are sure to come and we the taxpayers will have to pay thru the teeth. This does sound like something that Betras would do, so I am inclined to believe what you have implied.

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12gdog4766(1489 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

This was the word all over at the party meetings. And the killer is this person was the only one who appeared to do any work at the board.
All this was in the vindy. I believe it was always claimed the employee violated board procedures. But each time when outside entities were called in they not only cleared that person, but the state blamed the heads of the board for what happened. Could you see if a lawsuit were to come about how these people would hang each other out to dry. They'd be crazy to try to fire this one again.

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13uptowngirl(111 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

If she had any great info to contribute to the Fed's investigation, she would be in a witness protection program. Can you say scapegoat??

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14Nom_De_Plume(54 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Here is why Bert is full of it...

1. If the allegations were as serious as Bert would have everyone believe, there would have never been a state prosecution. The feds would've taken the case from the beginning.

2. The state case was NOT dismissed because the feds wouldn't turn over the "over 2000 hours of recordings." The case was indicted before the existence of the tapes was revealed. So, presumably, the special prosecutors (read as Linette and Gains and Tablack) felt there was enough evidence to proceed (probable cause) and to convict WITHOUT the tapes. Blaming the dismissal on the feds is a red herring. The special prosecutors realized the case was garbage and got out at the first opportunity. Plus, it is not a coincidence that the case was dismissed on the day that St. Paulie Boy was set to be called to the stand in the hearing on the motion to dismiss.

3. By my count, the federal statutes of limitation have run.

As to Lisa, it will always be interesting to speculate about what information, if any, she was able to provide. It is curious that she is being sentenced now. I guess it's possible that she will be ordered to continue to cooperate in any future prosecutions but it is more likely that she will just finish out her term of probation and nothing more will come of the Oakhill matter.

Of course Bert will continue to write and rant about it but he is like Don Quixote tilting at windmills. The feds will never answer him or answer to him. He is an irrelevant gadfly. The feds realize it and hopefully we all will as well.

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15jailbirds93(16 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

@pen name,

Are you trying to convince yourself or the feds, because indictments ARE coming.

1. The feds have a history of taking over cases where they have more evidence and or can bring charges that have greater penalties.

2. Do you really think you know who had what evidence first? You don't.

3. The idiots here in the Valley, even though everyone has known there is an on going investigation, have kept breaking the law. These people are like the gift that keeps on giving and giving.

I do have to agree with you on one point, Bert is an idiot. He's talking to the people committing the crimes and asking them what they know. It's pathetic and he should be shown the door by the Vindicator when this is over.

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16Nom_De_Plume(54 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

@jailbirds93,

I do know the order of things, the investigation, the case, etc. Federal investigators were involved in the investigation leading up to the state indictment. They knew about the tapes and everything that was supposedly uncovered in that investigation. They could've cherry-picked it at any time and did not and will not. As I also said, though, I believe the federal statutes have run but I am not entirely certain. And, I also know that no state prosecutor will touch this case - the Lorain county crew was the first to accept after three declinations - and I do not believe the AG's office will touch it.

I almost put at the end of my last post that you may see some collateral damage as a result of Oak Hill and/or Lisa. But, I am very confident that you will never see the full scale, far reaching takedown that people are led to believe will happen and that Bert yearns for. There might, MIGHT be a few spin off indictments but it will be anti-climactic at best. Just another black eye for the valley.

In closing, I will double down on Bert being an idiot.

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