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Marchionda’s legal troubles place downtown Y’town projects at risk

By David Skolnick

Friday, October 6, 2017

On the side

I was greatly saddened to learn of the death of Fremont Camerino, the former longtime Niles City Council president.

Fremont was a kind, intelligent person who taught me a lot during my time covering Niles for The Vindicator from 1995 to 2000.

He was an elected Republican in the Democratic-dominated city of Niles, holding the council presidency for an amazing 34 years. He often ran unopposed and was approached at times by the Trumbull County Republican Party to run for higher office.

But elected office to Fremont was truly a public service and he stayed on Niles council guiding its members through some challenging times with a calm demeanor and some of the loudest suits anyone has ever worn.

Whether prominent developer Dominic Marchionda and his affiliated businesses are convicted of the 100-plus alleged crimes in an indictment or found innocent, the future of downtown Youngstown will likely be impacted.

Marchionda and his businesses were behind the development of the Flats at Wick student housing complex and turned Erie Terminal Place and Wick Towers into apartment buildings.

The indictment, unsealed Monday by a Mahoning County grand jury, alleges Marchionda misused money from the city, the state and the federal governments for those three projects.

Marchionda, through his companies, is one of downtown’s major landlords.

Some of the buildings he owns that are occupied include the Metropolitan Savings & Loan Building and Realty Tower. Some are vacant including 16 Wick and the Legal Arts Building.

His most important contribution is still being built.

A Marchionda company is developing a $35 million DoubleTree by Hilton hotel at the downtown Stambaugh Building that is supposed to open in March.

Marchionda struggled to get financing for the hotel project – and that was before he was indicted.

If he’s convicted, future development projects by his companies are going to be extremely difficult to finance. Even if he’s found innocent, he was already having trouble with financing so it won’t get any easier.

After state and Mahoning County authorities seized records in March from Marchionda’s downtown Youngstown business and Poland home, John F. McCaffrey, his attorney, told me: “Hopefully, this doesn’t [adversely impact] other developments he’s involved in. It would be a real shame. I have no idea if it will.”

The 105-count indictment against Marchionda and his affiliated businesses say the developer devised a Ponzi scheme to “funnel government money to Marchionda so that Marchionda could continue to live his lavish lifestyle and enrich himself. Further through the concealing of relationships between a number of companies Marchionda owned, managed and controlled and Rubino Construction (which he also managed and partially owned), Marchionda could and did receive government funds to further funnel to himself with Rubino Construction being the conduit to funnel stolen proceeds/government funds to Dominic Marchionda for personal use. Subsequent projects are needed to pay the bills of prior projects.”

The indictment alleges Marchionda improperly spent grants received from Youngstown from its water and wastewater funds and loans from the city in addition to money from the state and federal to develop the projects.

He is accused of improperly spending at least $600,000 from city funds on personal items.

McCaffrey said his client is innocent and “will defend his years of development work with evidence in a court of law.”

Auditor Dave Yost said: “What our investigators found is deeply disturbing. Our team has worked this investigation for more than two years. They were tenacious and tireless in seeking justice, and there is more to come.”

“There is more to come” is key.

This area has a well-deserved reputation for public corruption and the latest indictment only adds to it.

The indictment alleges “a public official who works for the city of Youngstown” was involved in the criminal enterprise.

While the indictment only lists the official as John Doe 8, a source with knowledge of the investigation into Marchionda said that unnamed person is city Finance Director David Bozanich.

Bozanich is mentioned in the indictment as allegedly being involved in a money swap with Marchionda that placed $1 million “into the general fund of the city of Youngstown in violation of Ohio law.”

Bozanich had search warrants executed on his house and the residence of his girlfriend, where he was living, on July 6 in connection with the Marchionda investigation.

There’s also a line in the 73-page document that in order for the Flats at Wick project to obtain city approval, a $25,000 bribe was needed to “take care of Dave.”

Bozanich insists he’s innocent saying “I’ve done nothing wrong and time will tell.”