Ohio AG targets Oakhill criminal enterprise

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.

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