Judge Vettori pleads not guilty to federal charges
By Jordyn Grzelewski
When Judge Diane Vettori of Mahoning County Area Court in Sebring entered a federal courtroom for arraignment Wednesday, she was expected to enter into a plea agreement.
When U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster asked her for her plea, however, Judge Vettori took a long pause. She asked the judge if she could have a moment, then consulted briefly with her attorneys.
She then opted to plead not guilty to the charges she faces, which allege she stole at least $96,200 from the home of a woman whose estate Judge Vettori represented and whose will she prepared in her private practice.
She faces charges of mail fraud, structuring cash deposits and making false statements to law-enforcement officers.
Her decision to plead not guilty prompted assistant U.S. Attorney Brian McDonough to tell the court his office will file a superseding indictment with additional charges against the judge, who is prohibited from hearing cases while her case is pending, the Ohio Supreme Court said last week.
A filing in U.S. District Court accuses Judge Vettori, 49, of Canfield, of stealing at least $96,200 from the Glenwood Avenue property of Dolores Falgiani after Falgiani died in March 2016. She also is accused of depositing that money in a way that avoided federal reporting requirements and of lying to FBI agents when confronted about the matter.
The filing states Judge Vettori made bank deposits with the money she is accused of stealing between May 2 and June 3 of 2016.
At her arraignment, Judge Polster accepted a recommendation for a $20,000 unsecured bond, meaning Judge Vettori is not required to post anything unless she fails to show up for future court dates.
Judge Polster also set numerous dates in her case. He gave her a March 5 deadline to change her plea and set a final pretrial hearing for March 19 and a trial for March 26.
Additionally, a Mahoning County Probate Court closing disclosure revealed that Judge Vettori, while working for a local real-estate agency, listed the house from which she is accused of stealing. The house sold for $100,000 on Jan. 27, 2017. Records show her real-estate agency received $3,500 for the sale.
A judgment entry filed after relatives expressed concern about Judge Vettori’s handling of the estate says all concerns were answered and all objections were overruled.