An indictment details accusations of political corruption in Mahoning County

Published: Sun, May 18, 2014 @ 12:05 a.m.

By David Skolnick


An indictment details claims of widespread political corruption in Mahoning County, including bribing county officials, lying under oath to protect business interests and an agreement to fix court cases, among other things — much of it at the direction and benefit of a local businessman.

That person is not named and referred to — often — as Businessman 1 in the 67-page document.

But based on information in the indictment, a previous indictment and campaign finance reports, Businessman 1 is likely Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., the former president of the Cafaro Co.

The criminal enterprise conspired to “improperly influence elected officials in Mahoning County with money and legal services which were provided from Cuyahoga County” law firms and then “cover up, obstruct or illegally hide such conduct,” according to an indictment.

That 83-count indictment charges Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally during his time as county commissioner, county Auditor Michael V. Sciortino, and Atty. Martin Yavorcik, a failed 2008 county prosecutor candidate, with felony counts of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy, bribery, perjury, money laundering and tampering with records.

McNally and Sciortino are Democrats while Yavorcik ran in 2008 as an independent.

The indictment contends the public officials who helped the businessman try to stop the relocation of the county’s Department of Job and Family Services “received checks, cash, free legal services and other benefits or gifts to conduct themselves inconsistent with public trust they were obligated to protect and/or serve and then lied about their actions and who they were acting with.”

McNally, Sciortino and Yavorcik, the latter through his attorney, insist they are innocent. The mayor said “any description of a criminal enterprise is a complete stretch” and that “descriptions like that, to me, are comical.”

Jennifer Scott, Yavorcik’s lead attorney, said, “The presentation to the grand jury is one-sided” and “oftentimes, the charges in an indictment are exaggerated.”

The indictment was handed up Wednesday by a Cuyahoga County grand jury.

The three are to be arraigned May 29 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

The indictment accuses the three and 23 others — some named and most not, though descriptions of key participants don’t make them difficult to identify — of performing “illegal acts as part of and in furtherance of their association with this enterprise” from January 2005 to January 2014, though most of it stopped in July 2009.

None of the 23 others is indicted, but Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office is leading the investigation, said, “We are not done.”

The indictment states the businessman started the enterprise “to protect his interest in a number of issues and in particular, in a lease that Mahoning County had with a company he was or is associated with. Several public officials assisted Businessman 1 to support his initiative to keep the Mahoning County [Job] and Family Services agency at a facility owned by a company he was or is a principle [sic] in.”

McNally was the sole dissenter when county commissioners Anthony Traficanti and David N. Ludt voted 2-1 in May 2006 to relocate JFS from the Cafaro Co.-owned Garland Plaza on Youngstown’s East Side to Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center.

Cafaro, McNally, Sciortino, former county Treasurer John Reardon, former JFS Director John Zachariah, the Cafaro Co. and two of its subsidiaries were indicted in July 2010 on conspiring to unsuccessfully stop the move.

Yavorcik and Flora Cafaro, Anthony’s sister and a Cafaro Co. official, were also indicted, but that was for money laundering related to a purportedly concealed $15,000 payment she made to Yavorcik’s 2008 campaign for county prosecutor.

That indictment was dismissed a year later shortly after it was learned the FBI had about 2,000 hours of surveillance tapes of at least one of the defendants in the state case and wouldn’t turn them over.

As that wouldn’t allow the defense to fully represent its clients, the case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning charges could be refiled later.

Like the previous indictment, the new one contends McNally, Sciortino, Zachariah and Businessman 1 perjured themselves in a lawsuit to rescind the county’s purchase of Oakhill.

But this indictment details claims of bribery by Businessman 1. It names only a few of those who took the money.

The indictment said Businessman 1 gave $3,000 in cash to Lisa Antonini in 2008. The former county treasurer and county Democratic Party chairwoman went to prison after admitting taking the unreported campaign contribution and is cooperating with law enforcement.

Also in the indictment, Businessman 1 paid cash to former Trumbull County Commissioner James Tsagaris, a Democrat. In 2009, Tsagaris pleaded guilty to two counts of “honest-services mail fraud” for failing to report a $36,551 loan from an unnamed local businessman in 2004 as commissioner and voted on matters that directly affected that person.

Businessman 1 also offered $2,000 in cash in 2008 to an unnamed Mahoning County candidate to improperly influence him, the indictment reads. The candidate didn’t accept the cash. Businessman 1 then offered additional cash with Businesswoman 1 present, and the candidate again refused it, according to the indictment.

Elsewhere the indictment contends: “When an official resisted Businessman 1, Business 1 attorneys threatened such official with personal legal action.”

The indictment also alleges that in the 2006 primary for county commissioner, Businessman 1 reimbursed at least one person who contributed money to a candidate, referred to as John Doe 4, so the businessman’s name wouldn’t appear on campaign finance reports as the actual donor.

The unnamed candidate is listed among those involved in the criminal enterprise as “a resident of Mahoning County.”

The indictment states Businessman 1 promised to pay $120,000 to Yavorcik or his campaign in early 2008, but it would not be given until close to the end of the campaign so it wouldn’t show up in finance reports until after the election.

“The bulk of the money that fueled Martin Yavorcik’s campaign came from or through Businessman 1, his brother and Businesswoman 1,” according to the indictment.

Yavorcik’s 2008 post-general-election report shows Anthony M. Cafaro Sr. and Flora Cafaro gave $40,000 each to his campaign on Oct. 16, 2008, and J.J. Cafaro, their brother, gave $40,000 a day later.

The indictment contends Yavorcik “agreed to accept all monies promised by Businessman 1 and agreed to accept any conditions directly or indirectly attached to the receipt of such funds.”

That included “accepting benefits in the form of money and services from Lisa Antonini, Businessman 1, Michael Sciortino, others and John McNally so that in the event he became county prosecutor in January 2009, none of these people would be prosecuted or investigated,” according to the indictment.

Yavorcik lost that election to incumbent Democrat Paul J. Gains.

The indictment also contends Yavorcik “offered to fix two cases in Mahoning County for a person closely associated with one of the elected officials who were supporting him.” No details are provided on those cases in the indictment.

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