INFANTE TRIAL | Sports game and apparent gifts top testimony


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2:50 p.m.

WARREN

Sports games and apparent gifts topped the testimony this afternoon at former Niles mayor Ralph Infante's corruption trial in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

Following the close of testimony from a FBI agent, Bruce Zoldan, owner of Phantom Fireworks, testified about the 2007 NCAA National Championship football game and the people who were there in his loge at the game in Phoenix, Ariz.

Among them were Anthony Cafaro Sr. and his son, Anthony Cafaro Jr., who reimbursed the company and used many of the tickets and loge that Phantom Fireworks purchased for the game.

Paul Nick, executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission, is on the witness stand now, testifying that Infante did not list gifts, bribes or even the name of the business he and his wife operate from 2007 through 2015 as required by Ohio law.

In earlier testimony, jurors listened to a secretly recorded interview this morning between an FBI agent and Ralph Infante in May 2009 when Infante was mayor of Niles in which he admitted that he had obtained free tickets to the 2007 NCAA football championship from Anthony Cafaro Sr. and his son, Anthony Cafaro Jr.

The two are Cafaro Co. executives.

The recording is part of the trial.

Infante admitted in 2009 that he never paid for the tickets, which the agent later testified cost about $4,000 each, and Infante failed to report the tickets as gifts on his disclosure forms to the Ohio Ethics Commission.

"This surprises me," Infante told the agent, Deane Hassman, with the Youngstown FBI office when shown that he did not report the tickets as gifts.

Prosecutors then played a recording of a similar interview the agent had with Infante in December 2015 in which Infante told Hassman his wife, Judy, bought the tickets. Hassman didn't reveal to Infante that the agent had a recording of the first interview.

"My wife bought them for me as a birthday gift. I told you that," Infante told the agent. The agent challenged Infante's recollection of the first interview.

Hassman asked Infante a number of additional questions in the second interview related to Infante's bank account because bank records had obtained for the Infantes showed frequent cash deposits.

Infante could not explain the deposits. "It wouldn't be me" making the deposits, he said.

Hassman, who is still testifying, is the first witness in the trial.

Infante, 63, who was Niles mayor from 1992 to the end of 2015, is charged with 41 criminal counts alleging racketeering, numerous counts of bribery and tampering with records and fewer counts of gambling, falsification and theft.

Prosecutors plan to call 30 to 35 witnesses to the stand, many of them Niles employees or Niles officials, and the trial is expected to last well into next week, special prosecutor Dan Kasaris said Tuesday.

11 a.m.

WARREN — Jurors listened to a secretly recorded interview this morning between an FBI agent and Ralph Infante in May 2009 when Infante was mayor of Niles in which he admitted that he had obtained free tickets to the 2007 NCAA football championship from Anthony Cafaro Sr. and his son, Anthony Cafaro Jr.

The two are Cafaro Co. executives.

The recording is part of the former Ralph Infante corruption trial in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

Infante admitted in 2007 that he never paid for the tickets, which the agent later testified cost about $4,000 each, and Infante failed to report the tickets as gifts on his disclosure forms to the Ohio Ethics Commission.

"This surprises me," Infante told the agent, Deane Hassman, with the Youngstown FBI office when shown that he did not report the tickets as gifts.

Prosecutors then played a recording of a similar interview the agent had with Infante in December 2015 in which Infante told Hassman his wife, Judy, bought the tickets. Hassman didn't reveal to Infante that the agent had a recording of the first interview.

"My wife bought them for me as a birthday gift. I told you that," Infante told the agent. The agent challenged Infante's recollection of the first interview.

Hassman asked Infante a number of additional questions in the second interview related to Infante's bank account because bank records for the Infantes showed frequent cash deposits.

Infante could not explain the deposits. "It wouldn't be me" making the deposits, he said.

Hassman, who is still testifying, is the first witness in the trial.

Infante, 63, who was Niles mayor from 1992 to the end of 2015, is charged with 41 criminal counts alleging racketeering, numerous counts of bribery and tampering with records and fewer counts of gambling, falsification and theft.

Prosecutors plan to call 30 to 35 witnesses to the stand, many of them Niles employees or Niles officials, and the trial is expected to last well into next week, special prosecutor Dan Kasaris said Tuesday.

9:29 a.m.

WARREN — Deane Hassman, agent with the Youngstown office of the FBI, has taken the stand as the first witness in the former Niles mayor Ralph Infante corruption trial.

Hassman conducted two interviews with Infante about 2007 NCAA Championship football tickets Infante is alleged to have received from executives with the Niles-based Cafaro Co. land development company – one in 2009 and one in 2015, prosecutors say.

In the 2015 interview, Infante is alleged to have denied telling Hassman in 2009 the tickets came from the Cafaros, despite Infante’s 2009 remarks being recorded, special prosecutor Dan Kasaris said in his opening statements Tuesday.

Kasaris said Neil Buccino, former Niles auditor and former Niles service director, attended the game with Infante, thinking they were only going to tailgate outside of the stadium, Kasaris said.

Infante, 63, who was Niles mayor from 1992 to the end of 2015, is charged with 41 criminal counts alleging racketeering, numerous counts of bribery and tampering with records and fewer counts of gambling, falsification and theft.

Kasaris named names during his opening statements, revealing the identities of alleged accomplices in many of the charges, some of whom were charged and some of whom were told they would avoid being charged if they testified at the trial.

Prosecutors plan to call 30 to 35 witnesses to the stand, many of them Niles employees or Niles officials, and the trial is expected to last well into next week, Kasaris said.

Jury selection was completed Tuesday afternoon.

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