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Ohio AG targets Oakhill criminal enterprise

Published: Fri, May 16, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)

On the side

Black caucus dinner: The Youngstown Warren Black Caucus will honor the Mahoning Valley’s two black mayors — William “Doug” Franklin of Warren and Glenn Holmes of McDonald — at a dinner at 3 p.m. Saturday at the DiVieste Banquet Hall, 754 North River Road NW in Warren.

The keynote speaker is state Rep. Alicia Reece of Cincinnati, D-33rd, president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus. Tickets are $30 each, and can be obtained by calling 330-507-2154 or 330-727-5758.

It’s been nearly three years since the dismissal of criminal charges against five people and three companies with conspiring to impede the relocation of the Mahoning County Department of Job and Family Services from the Cafaro Co.-owned Garland Plaza to Oakhill Renaissance Place.

Also indicted were attorney Martin Yavorcik and Flora Cafaro, then a part owner of the Cafaro Co., but not for conspiracy. They were charged with money laundering over a supposed concealed $15,000 payment to Yavorcik during his failed 2008 county prosecutor race.

The cases were dismissed in July 2011, about a year after charges were filed, because special prosecutors couldn’t provide 2,000 hours of surveillance recordings from the FBI of at least one defendant. Defense lawyers said they couldn’t fully represent their clients without those tapes.

So we logically believed the feds were investigating these political corruption allegations except a few years went by without a peep, except unsubstantiated rumors.

At some point, the feds chose not to proceed, and the Ohio attorney general’s office picked up the ball and ran with it.

Attorney General Mike DeWine and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty announced on Wednesday an 83-count indictment against Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally (in his previous capacity as a county commissioner), county Auditor Michael Sciortino and Yavorcik.

McNally and Sciortino are Democrats while Yavorcik ran as an independent candidate in 2008 for county prosecutor.

The charges include engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy, bribery, perjury and money laundering — very similar charges to the first indictment except this one has more charges and some new ones such as tampering with records.

The indictment alleges an elaborate and longstanding criminal enterprise that worked from January 2005 to January 2014, though it slowed down considerably by July 2009.

The indictment contends an unidentified person, called Businessman 1 — though there is enough information in the document and elsewhere for anyone with even basic knowledge to determine it’s Anthony M. Cafaro Sr. — “sought to and did influence elected officials and public employees [in] Mahoning County, Ohio, by the lure of money, services and other benefits.”

Money was given to various elected officials to stop an investigation into the businessman’s involvement with trying to keep JFS from moving from a location owned by a Cafaro Co. subsidiary, according to the indictment.

Also, Yavorcik’s failed independent bid to beat county Prosecutor Paul J. Gains, a Democrat, was bankrolled by those who wanted the Oakhill investigation to go away, the indictment reads.

The defendants insist they’re innocent.

Among the many interesting aspects of this matter is the case will be prosecuted in Cuyahoga County as some of the purposed criminal activities occurred there — though most happened in Mahoning County.

Virtual unknowns

Why Cuyahoga instead of Mahoning? Prosecutors won’t admit it and the defendants won’t directly say it, but in Cuyahoga, jurors won’t know McNally or Sciortino, much less Yavorcik.

The assistant attorney generals are based in Cleveland so they don’t have to go back and forth from the Mahoning Valley as the defendants will. Also, there won’t be a need for a visiting judge — a disaster in the Mahoning County case.


1Kernaloftruth(86 comments)posted 4 months, 1 week ago

I love your use of the word "impede" here. You make it sound like moving to Oak Hill was a good idea and McNally and Sciortino tried to stop it. You have actually been inside the place right? You do realize half of the building needs a complete renovation, a quarter of it is usable but in bad shape, and the other quarter occupied by the BOE, Titles, and Veteran's Services is the only good parts of the building right?

Let's do the math. Taxpayers get ripped off on a $15 million dollar acquisition that after three years is still in poor shape--and the fund for the building is broke, and a sales tax renewal goes down this year--not too good a situation here. McNally and Sciortino allegedly get some kind of legal services (not cash mind you, legal services which BCI cannot even put a fair value on) for "conspiring" to prevent the purchase of said building (which they maintained was a bad idea from the start), to which BCI claims a direct benefit was received (though what that exact benefit is remains to be explained). .

Who really are the criminals here? McNally and Sciortino for trying to block a bad deal, or Tablack and company who had a vested interest in spiting Cafaro despite the county reneging on the agreed upon terms that the county was responsible for fixing the roof at Garland.

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2gunr(49 comments)posted 4 months, 1 week ago

Kernel-why not get off the fence and tell us what you really feel?

Good decision or bad (purchasing Oak Hill) is not the issue. That fight was lost when the three commissioners voted BY A MAJORITY to purchase.

'Impede' was a kind word, Skolnick. Block or reverse is more accurate.

In case you haven't noticed, legal services are expensive. Getting them for free is a major 'benefit'. If the 'Law Firms' 1 thru 3 and 'Attorneys' 1 thru 8 also get indicted for conspiring or corrupt practices, the 'benefit' will become quantified and known and the lengths to which 'businessmen' will have gone to keep McGuffey in play will surprise many. Apparently Lisa got cash, others got 'benefits'.

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3ytownboy22(65 comments)posted 4 months, 1 week ago

Query how was appointment of a visiting judge a disaster in the first go round? It is what happens when all other qualified judges in the jurisdiction recuse themselves. No one can minimize the qualifications of the Honorable Richard Markus who was appointed visiting judge in the 2010 case. He is one of the best judges in Ohio over the last fifty years. Once the feds refused to release the tapes from wiretaps, he had no choice but to dismiss the cases. It was a decision grounded in rights conferred in our constitution on those who stand accused. What made that a "disaster"-- the fact that he properly ruled against the popular sentiment of your paper? DeWine answered that he undertook this investigation after a conversation with a public official from the Mahoning Valley? Not much of a standard to live by for an AG who places emphasis on criminal over civil duties of his office. Did that conversation take place in a proper forum or at a coffee shop or men's room? Was it instigated by political enemies of the pair? Or was it a person of high moral standards with no skin in the game? Make no mistake, the pairing of Ohio AG with Cuyahoga prosecutor is formidable duo. One can forgive the accused for being paranoid at how these two legal titans came together and how they decided on bringing these charges in the new home of Johnny Manzell. What is potentially disturbing is the notion that a phone call, email or faxed communication to an office in Cleveland constituted criminal activity for what appears to be routine interaction with counsel, otherwise perfectly legal. When I read and heard of crimes committed in Cuyahoga, I assumed Cafaro was providing them with lodging and meals in the Ritz Carlton and ample chips for the casino. It looks as if these guys never even left the county or stepped foot in Cuyahoga and that the accusers are using flimsy grounds to assert the jurisdiction of Cuyahoga to gain an advantage in terms of venue. Were anyone from your family lassoed into foreign soil by these tactics, believe me you would have a problem with it. It kind of breaks down like the public discourse on Bhengazi investigations. Obama Clinton haters want more investigations inspite of the investigations that have already produced nothing of consequence. Obama Clinton supporters cry foul! In this instance, Oakhill supporters cry for a pound of flesh while opponents and supporters of Mayor/Auditor protest. Go figure. The counsel in this corner is not to rush to any rash judgments. Let each man avail himself of his constitutional rights. Let each challenge the sufficiency of the evidence against him. Trust the process.

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4gunr(49 comments)posted 4 months, 1 week ago

Ytownboy - I think Bert was referring to the visiting judge in the criminal case, judge Wolf. Judge Markus was on the civil case.

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