By Bertram de Souza (Contact)
Published May 16, 2011
With the filing of a federal bill of information charging Mahoning County Treasurer Lisa Antonini with one count of honest service mail fraud (she concealed a campaign gift), federal prosecutors have concluded that she has knowledge important to their ongoing investigation into government corruption in Mahoning County.
The feds don’t make deals unless they believe that whatever is being shared by the target will help them nab big fish. Remember, that’s what they did with Youngstown shopping center developer J.J. Cafaro in the Jim Traficant criminal trial. Cafaro admitted he had given then-Congressman Traficant $13,000 in cash. That testimony was a major factor in the former county sheriff’s conviction and eight-year federal prison sentence. Cafaro, who was convicted on various criminal charges, did not spend one day in prison for those crimes.
So, what does Antonini have to offer? She was chairwoman of the county Democratic Party and county treasurer when she had dealings with the unnamed businessman who gave her the $3,000, in cash, which she did not report, and a check for $200, which she reported.
Federal prosecutors play hardball when they have the goods on you — especially if you’re an elected official in Mahoning County — and so they must believe that the information Antonini is sharing will not only enable them to go after the unnamed businessman, but also other officeholders.
On April 24, this writer’s Sunday column in The Vindicator was headlined, “Is Cafaro a target of feds?” The Cafaro in question is Anthony Cafaro Sr., now retired president of the Cafaro Co. The piece ended with this: “Here’s another whisper: A Mahoning County officeholder is supposedly talking to the FBI.” It was Antonini.
Now, with the former county treasurer — she resigned today (Monday) — admitting to wrongdoing, look for other government officials whose hands aren’t clean to want to make a deal with the feds. There isn’t any benefit in challenging the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to “take your best shot” — as Traficant did.