By DAVID SKOLNICK
and JUSTIN WIER
Sammarone On Indictments
An explosive 101-county indictment alleges that city hall was for sale when Charles Sammarone served as mayor and David Bozanich was finance director. The indictment also replaced a 2017 indictment against downtown developer Dominic Marchionda and a dozen of his affiliated companies.
A Mahoning County grand jury indicted former Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone, ex-city Finance Director David Bozanich, downtown property developer Dominic Marchionda and the latter’s affiliated businesses on 101 criminal counts.
An explosive 101-count indictment alleges that city hall was for sale when Charles Sammarone served as mayor and David Bozanich was finance director.
The 78-page indictment, unsealed Thursday by a Mahoning County grand jury, also supersedes an Oct. 2, 2017, indictment against downtown developer Dominic Marchionda and a dozen of his affiliated companies.
Sammarone, a Democrat who served as mayor from August 2011 to December 2013, said he learned about his indictment from a Vindicator reporter.
While holding a copy of the newspaper in his hand, Sammarone said: “It’s news to me. As far as I’m concerned. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
The indictment, however, indicates investigators have a tape in which he said: “I am with the old school, one hand washes the other,” and “Anything is legal if no one else knows about it, I have been around a long time.”
John F. McCaffrey, Marchionda’s attorney, said late Thursday that he just received a copy of the indictment and wasn’t prepared to make a comment.
Attempts by The Vindicator to reach Bozanich on Thursday were unsuccessful. But on Oct. 3, 2017, the day after Marchionda’s initial indictment in which an unnamed city official – which a source close to the investigation said was Bozanich – was accused of bribing Marchionda, the then-finance director said: “I’ve done nothing wrong and time will tell.”
Ohio Auditor Dave Yost, whose staff worked with Attorney General Mike De-Wine’s office on the investigation, said Thursday’s indictments aren’t the end.
“Our team is still on the ground,” he told The Vindicator during a visit to the newspaper’s office. “An investigation is like a ball of string. You take it to the end and we’re not to the end.”
Yost, a Republican, said there were new discoveries found after Marchionda’s indictment almost 11 months ago.
“I expect as our work continues there will be future developments,” he said. “We’ve learned more and we continue to learn more.”
When asked if this should shake people’s faith in Youngstown government, Yost said: “It should strengthen people’s faith in city government.”
“When the powerful are held accountable, that should build confidence,” he said.
Thursday’s indictment alleges Bozanich illegally received cash, golf fees, meals, trips and other benefits exceeding $125,000 over a 10-year period.
At times, benefits were provided to Village Traveler, a travel agency of which Bozanich was a part-owner – with him then taking the money.
Bozanich served as finance director until December 2017. The indictment alleges that Bozanich received benefits from several individuals and in return agreed to assist in securing public funding from the city for economic development projects, including Marchionda’s.
The indictment alleges a bribe to Bozanich from Exal Leasing LLC, a company formed by three unnamed members of the criminal enterprise to construct a building for development near Poland Avenue but not owned by Exal Corp. One of the Exal Leasing owners paid a $100,000 bribe to Bozanich for the economic development project, according to the indictment.
When Marchionda asked in 2008 about city funding for the Flats at Wick student housing complex, Bozanich said no. But a bribe of $20,000 to $25,000 changed Bozanich’s mind, the indictment alleges.
The indictment contends in order to further the criminal enterprise, John Doe 2 waived $7,000 to $10,000 in legal fees Bozanich owed to him because the then-finance director was supporting the Flats project. A source close to the investigation confirmed John Doe 2 is Stephen Garea, who was Marchionda’s attorney and whose house and office were searched in July 2017 related to the state probe. Garea also could not be reached late Thursday.
Sammarone served as mayor from August 2011 to December 2013. The indictment alleges that Sammarone solicited and received recurring cash payments from a vendor in return for steering projects to the company.
The former mayor allegedly took $1,000 and $1,500 monthly payments from an employee at an unnamed local business in exchange for receiving work in the city.
The payments listed in the indictment extend from October 2012 to July 2013 and totaled $10,000.
The indictment states that the president or CEO of the local business was not aware of the payments.
Sammarone also is accused of failing to disclose the payments along with rental income derived from owning a condo in Florida and is accused of making false statements about the money to state investigative officials.
Shortly after the alleged payments stopped, Sammarone gave $4,000 in cash to DeMaine Kitchen on Oct. 27, 2013, in violation of state campaign-finance laws. State law doesn’t permit cash contributions of more than $100. Sammarone said at the time that he had the cash in his house. When the violation was discovered, Kitchen refunded the cash and Sammarone wrote him a check.
Sammarone does not appear to be connected to Marchionda’s activities, but a person identified as John Doe 6 provided payments to Sammarone, Bozanich and Marchionda.
When the investigation into Bozanich came to light, the indictment alleges, Bozanich and Sammarone stopped receiving benefits from John Doe 6. Also, the indictment alleges that $45,000 of the bribe money was returned by Bozanich through his travel agency to John Doe 6 to “obstruct or hide from the federal investigation into his conduct.”
The indictment also serves as a superseding indictment for Marchionda and his affiliated businesses which were previously indicted on Oct. 2, 2017, on charges including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, aggravated theft, money laundering, receiving stolen property, tampering with records and telecommunications fraud.
That investigation accused Marchionda of misusing money obtained from the city as well as the state and federal governments for the Flats at Wick student housing complex and projects to turn the Erie Terminal Place and Wick Towers into downtown apartments.
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 governments to develop the projects.
He is accused of improperly spending at least $600,000 from city funds on personal items.
The indictment adds charges of theft and money laundering related to the Legal Arts Building at 101 Market St., which Marchionda purchased in 2012.
The indictment states that after a flood of the
Legal Arts Building, Marchionda funneled $1.7 million in insurance money intended for repairs into the Wick Tower project.
Those funds paid for the completion of the Wick Tower project between November 2014 and February 2016, according to the indictment.
Sammarone, 75, of Youngstown, is indicted on the following charges:
One count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a felony of the first degree.
Nine counts of bribery, felonies of the third degree.
Three counts of tampering with records, felonies of the third degree.
One count of falsification, a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Bozanich, 61, of Youngstown, is indicted on the following charges:
One count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a felony of the first degree.
Two counts of aggravated theft, felonies of the first degree.
15 counts of bribery, felonies of the third degree.
One count of obstructing justice, a felony of the fifth degree.
Marchionda, 58, of Poland and his companies are indicted on the following charges:
Engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a felony of the first degree.
Five counts of aggravated theft, a felony of the first degree.
Two counts of aggravated theft, a felony of the second degree.
One count of theft, a felony of the fifth degree.
Two counts of receiving stolen property, a felony of the third degree.
Five counts of receiving stolen property, a felony of the fourth degree.
One count of attempt to secure writings by deception, a felony of the fourth degree.
One count of aggravated theft, a felony of the fourth degree.
11 counts of tampering with records, a felony of the third degree.
One count of falsification, a felony of the third degree.
Five counts of telecommunications fraud, a felony of the second degree.
31 counts of money laundering, a felony of the third degree.
“The people of Youngstown deserve to have confidence in their elected officials, but the indictments announced [Thursday] show a repeated pattern of bribery and corrupt activity,” DeWine said. “There has been tremendous cooperation in this case from my office, Auditor of State Dave Yost, Prosecutor Paul Gains, Sheriff Jerry Greene and others who have worked hard to bring these charges to light in order to seek justice.”
Contributor: Justin Dennis