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AG DeWine sets sights on Cafaro

Published: Sun, May 18, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

To all those apologists for the corrupters of government in the Mahoning Valley who have accused this writer of beating a dead horse — the Oakhill Renaissance Place scandal — “Neigh! Neigh! Neigh!” (or “eHeeHee” if you’re in a jovial mood.) The horse is very much alive.

In fact, if you paid close attention to Saturday’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, you would have seen “Oakhill Corruption” coming up the rear fast — with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on board.

The state’s chief lawyer is riding hard with his eyes on the prize: Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., the retired president of the Youngstown-based Cafaro Co., one of the nation’s leading shopping center developers.

No, DeWine has not publicly named Cafaro as the ultimate target of the reopened Oakhill Renaissance corruption case, but there’s no mistaking the identity of “Businessman 1” contained in the 67-page, 83-count criminal indictment returned last week by a Cuyahoga County grand jury.

The indictment of Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally, Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino and Atty. Martin Yavorcik on a slew of charges, including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy, bribery, perjury and money laundering, is the opening salvo.

Memory lane

A year ago, the column in this space carried the following headline: “Will AG DeWine take action?” It began thusly:

“Dear Mr. Attorney General:

“Dare it be said? Mahoning County needs ‘DeWine intervention’ (Come on, it’s Easter). Seriously, though, it has been about nine months since the state was forced to drop criminal charges against several public officials and a prominent businessman because the federal government refused to hand over the results of 2,000 hours of wiretaps and other audio and visual surveillance. The feds have acknowledged that their investigation intersects with the state’s probe of government corruption in Mahoning County.

“There were unconfirmed reports of a federal grand jury in Cleveland preparing indictments to be handed down this month. But we enter April with no action on the part of the U.S. attorney’s office.

“Hence, this letter to you.

“As Ohio’s top lawyer — and a former county prosecutor with an impressive record of convictions — your involvement in this case is essential.

“The state criminal charges were not dropped because the special prosecutors concluded that they had a weak case. They were forced to throw in the towel because the feds revealed the existence of the surveillance and refused to turn over what they had to defense lawyers.”

The March 31, 2013, column concluded with this:

“The time has come to close the book on our sordid history.

“Attorney General DeWine, there is another compelling reason for you to evaluate this case: Former Commissioner McNally could well win the mayoral race. It will not serve the city well if he has a dark cloud hanging over his head.”

Last week’s indictment of McNally et al was the shot across the government- corruption bow.

But, make no mistake about it: the mayor, the county auditor and the local lawyer are the puppets in the Oakhill Renaissance Place drama. The indictment, which makes no attempt to hide the ultimate goal, establishes “Businessman 1” as the Puppet master. He pulled the strings and Mahoning County government officials and others danced. As an aside, the indictment confirms what this writer has long contended: Our government officials can be bought for peanuts.

So, what prompted Attorney General DeWine to act? It’s safe to speculate, as was done in a column on March 23, that the FBI did hand over the tapes or the transcripts of the surveillance.

Minor misstep

While DeWine is deserving of the appreciation and the support of all honest Mahoning Valley residents, he had one minor misstep last week: He began his presentation to the press by saying it’s always a “sad day” when officeholders are caught up in a criminal investigation.

No, Mr. Attorney General, it isn’t a sad day for the Valley; it’s a day for celebration. We, in this region, have had to live with corrupt politicians and those who have no qualms about corrupting them for far too long.

We have your back, sir.


1Roger_Thornhill(971 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

Sure hope AG goes and gets Cafaro.

Wonder if either McNally and Sciortino wish they had taken the deal Antonini took. If these two get convicted now they will get YEARS in a STATE prison.

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2Roger_Thornhill(971 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

1. Since Fitzgerald donated (washed his hands of it) the campaign contribution he got from McNally, does that mean he will refuse to appear on campaign literature with Sciortino?
If not, why?

2. Anyone in the media ask McNally what he thinks about Fitzgerlad's actions?

3. Anyone point out to Sciortino that the prosecutor in Cuyahoga County is a Democrat?

4. Anyone point out to Sciortino that Fairfiled County GOP Clerk of Courts was also removed from office by GOP state officeholder?

5. Sciortino has ZERO personal incentive to take his name off of the ballot. Even if he gets suspended from office, which he probably will, he will still get paid. Local Democrat party has stood behind him after first indictment and DUI UNarrest, so he has learned that POWER of the local PARTY is all that matters.

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3Roger_Thornhill(971 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

With all the information about Cafaro that is in the indictment, it begs the question: Why wasn't Cafaro indicted again?

Two possibilities:
1. Cafaro made deal already. Seems unlikely.

2. Prosecutor feels Cafaro can wait until DEMOCRAT Prosecutor McGinty finishes his work with DeWine on McNally and Sciortino.

Why wait to indict Cafaro?
1. Maybe McNally and/or Sciortino will flip on Cafaro, or;
2. With Cafaro not being indicted, Cafaro's lawyers are not busy working with a limitless bankroll on defense. Such a defense by Cafaro also benefits Sciortino and McNally. So, maybe prosecutors feel they will make Sciortino and McNally go it alone until they go after Cafaro.

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4jen99(8 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

Bertram, you should educate yourself on how the criminal justice system works in the US before you begin commenting on it. As a paralegal who works for a local criminal attorney I can tell you that the AG's office goes for the low hanging fruit. They went after the little guys in this case and more than likely will offer Cafaro a sweet deal - since he has the money to fight them. You mention DeWine's impressive conviction rate, are those convictions from trial or pleas? The fact of the matter is most people plea simply because they run out of money, not becasue the state or county or whatever agency has great evidence.
The AGs office leaked the grand jury proceedings and that is unethical, since those are supposed to be secret. That alone gives you an idea of how they operate in the AGs office.
DeWine's office does not have the talent to go head to head with the kind of defense team Cafaro can put in place.
And as far as corrupt public officials, you probably missed all the coverage on DeWine's pay-to-play scandal. He's probably doing so many "corrupt public official" cases because he knows what's up in the future for him.
As a journalist it is your responsibility to question the government and the government is on both sides of this story.

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5rickking123(322 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

With the long history of corrupt politicians and judges convicted in this valley you would think that the electorate would get tired of dirty politicians and judges. Yet we continue to vote them in office.

Isn't it our responsibility to clean house once and for all? Shouldn't we be sending the message that if you are corrupt we don't want you in office and we won't elect you.

I hope the feds make good use of their tape recordings and continue to clean house.

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6Roger_Thornhill(971 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

Vindy should ask DeWine's opponent in AG race, David Pepper, if he will ask that no promotional literature be distributed with his and Sciortino's name for November election.

Pepper should also be asked "If he is elected Ohio AG will he allow the Democrat Cuyahoga County prosecutor who is pursuing this case now, to continue the case w/o any interference?"

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7Roger_Thornhill(971 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

You mention the now infamous tapes, and though DeWine wouldn't say it, obviously the tapes will be used.

Why is it obvious? Because last time the charges were filed, the case was dismissed because the tapes were not made accessible to the defendants.

It would be silly to file charges again only to have them dropped again because they can't provide the tapes.

Being that DeWine is running for reelection, he isn't going to go forward with a case he doesn't feel very confident in winning.

Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and the govt does bring charges against people who are guilty.

The problem for Sciortino and McNally are there are just so many counts. Another problem for Sciortino is that when all of this Oak Hill stuff was occurring, didn't he refuse to certify the money was in the account to write the check for Oak Hil, and IIRC he was told by a judge to write the check.

I don't remember the timelines, but if anything he is indicted for occurred AFTER the time he was told by the court to certify the funds, he is going to look very bad.

Will certainly be an interesting case, but it won't come to trial before the election.

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