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Oh, the indignity of it all

Published: Sun, June 29, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

A national law-enforcement crackdown on prostitution and other human- trafficking activities resulted in the arrest of a dozen people in Boardman by federal, state and local agents. That’s the good news.

The bad news is the lineup of those arrested. Talk about a dirty dozen. The mug shots of the 11 women and one man published in The Vindicator last week are the latest in a long line of indignities suffered by this region.

Given that the arrests are tied to Operation Cross Country, the pictures of the Valley’s “finest” are probably in a national databank — for all in law enforcement to see. And when they do, we will once again be the butt of jokes.

Why once again? Because the nation has been laughing at us for quite some time. Consider:

The botched Mafia-contract hit on then Mahoning County Prosecutor-elect Paul Gains was proof positive that this once organized-crime haven had become an embarrassment for all respectable mobsters.

One-time mob boss Lenine Strollo, who ended up being an FBI and Justice Department snitch and served time in the federal pen, had given his blessing to the Gains hit. The only trouble was that the man who convinced Strollo that getting rid of Gains would be good for business went outside the “family” to find the shooters.

That turned out to be a mistake — and could well be the opening chapter of the Mobster’s Handbook titled, “Make sure your gun is in working condition.”

Gains was in the kitchen in his Boardman home when the shooter came in and fired. The prosecutor-elect fell, and while he lay on the floor, the hit man stood over and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.

He panicked, left and then told the driver of the getaway car that he believed Gains was dead. He was wrong.

Gains is now in his fifth four-year term as prosecutor and is a major thorn in the side of the corrupters of government.

Traficant’s antics

Another indignity suffered by this region has a name that’s nationally recognizable: James A. Traficant Jr. The former congressman from the Valley and former sheriff of Mahoning County is a constant reminder that we can’t even do government corruption well.

Traficant went to federal prison for almost eight years after being convicted of 10 criminal charges, including racketeering and bribery. Federal prosecutors made the case that Traficant had used his public position for personal gain.

And here’s where we hang our heads in shame. It has been determined that the monetary value of the congressman’s crimes was $45,000.

Think about it: One of the top vote-getters in the House of Representatives from one of the strongest Democratic districts in country threw it all away for chump change.

Had Traficant kept his nose clean and not made an enemy of the FBI and IRS, he would still be in Congress today.

He had beaten the federal government in a criminal case when he was sheriff — he was charged with taking bribes from organized-crime figures during the campaign — and knew he was a target when he got to Capitol Hill.

But rather than walk the straight and narrow, he went after his perceived enemies with a vengeance. The only problem was that Traficant also played fast and loose with the law and the rules of the House.

The rest is the defining chapter of the sordid history of political corruption in the Mahoning Valley.

So, where is the former congressman-turned-jailbird?

You’ll find him on YouTube in a video interview titled, “Jim Traficant — ‘Israel has used us like a whore.’ ”

Will we never be rid of him? His rants against Israel and American Jews are a reflection of a troubled mind.

But it isn’t only Traficant who is an indignity we’re forced to suffer.

Oakhill conspiracy

The government targets of the so-called Oakhill Renaissance Place conspiracy have shown that when it comes to being courted by a powerful, rich businessman, they’re a cheap date.

If you’re going to serve in public office and are inclined to be bribed, at least have the decency to demand a payment that will make us, your constituents, feel proud.

We’re tired of being laughed at by folks in other states where $1 million bribes are the rule rather than the exception.

As for the women caught up in Operation Cross Country, we should take comfort in the fact that while they aren’t Las Vegas-caliber come-hither types, they appeared to be an improvement over the ladies of the evening who troll Market Street in Youngstown.

You’ve seen them, lurking in the shadows, all dolled up in their finest: Food-stained nightgowns, bedroom slippers, hair in curlers. And of course, the hacking cough from smoking too many cheap cigarettes.

Heck, there’s the basis for a reality show. On second thought, we don’t need the national spotlight on us — again.


1handymandave(567 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

You gotta give Gains credit for one thing, well come to think of it two things. First, he couldn't be bought. Not at least for the piddly a$$ sums the leading Dems in this County could be purchased for. Second, although Philomena as an Attorney forgot more legal procedure and refinement than Paul Gains could possibly ever know, the boy was smart enough to surround himself with people who were smart enough to keep that operation downtown running.

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2TERRAPINST(320 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Wow. Bertie found the energy to write about two original paragraphs this week. Really was interesting reading the 15 year old "news" stories on Strollo and Trafficant. My God -are there any Editors at that paper who say, "Bert, you actually have to work this month"!

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3Silence_Dogood(1663 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Bert,your column should have titled " rumblings of an idiot" , that or " how the Fed's took my girlfriend away".

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4patrickhm(26 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Who can forget the Phar Mor scandal, which, had it not been for the crookedness of then founder Micky Monus, would have made downtown Youngstown headquarters to a drugstore chain rivaling that of CVS and Wallgreens today. So many missed opportunities and so sad to see the area continue to struggle time and time again in an unending saga that began that bleak Monday morning in 1977.

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5jfuze0905(82 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

I hate to be one the one to break your bubble, but I've lived in numerous areas of the Country, and when I mention Youngstown, Ohio, not many have even heard of the place.

With that being said, I'd really be interested in finding out who in the nation "has been laughing at us for quite some time".

I find it all too comical when I read about the "antics" of Jim Trafficant in this column, and have yet to come across one person who has even heard of him, let alone the "botched" hit of Paul Gains...

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