Bozanich goes to prison; former Youngstown finance director sentenced to one year
Marchionda given five years’ probation in corruption probe
YOUNGSTOWN — Moments after ex-Youngstown Finance Director David Bozanich said he “should have made better decisions,” a judge made one for him: one year in prison for four crimes he committed as part of a city government corruption investigation.
“Mr. Bozanich, you should be ashamed of yourself,” Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge Maureen Sweeney said Thursday. “As a public official, you abused the trust of the people of Youngstown.”
She said Bozanich’s crimes are an “abuse of power for personal gain.”
Bozanich was then taken in handcuffs from the courtroom.
He also received three years of probation and a $10,000 fine. He already paid $5,000 toward his prosecution.
Ralph E. Cascarilla, Bozanich’s attorney, said he “was surprised by the sentence — given the sentence for the other public official.”
Cascarilla was referring to ex-Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone, who was charged in the same corruption indictment, and took a plea March 16 to two felony counts of tampering with records. He received five years of probation and 30 days of community service.
Bozanich, 63, of Youngstown, was convicted of one felony count each of bribery and tampering with records and two misdemeanor counts of unlawful compensation of a public official. The unlawful counts were initially bribery and the tampering count was reduced from aggravated theft.
Dan Kasaris, a senior assistant attorney general and lead prosecutor on the Youngstown criminal investigation, had asked Sweeney to sentence Bozanich to six years in prison, the maximum sentence, while Cascarilla asked for probation.
The bribery conviction was for accepting free golf from Raymond Briya, a former MS Consultants Inc. chief financial officer, so his company “could secure work for or within the city of Youngstown, then devised a scheme to hide the benefits,” according to the indictment.
The tampering conviction was for Bozanich giving $1.2 million from the city’s water fund to downtown developer Dominic Marchionda if he gave $1 million back to the city’s general fund in December 2009 to buy the Madison Avenue fire station property. That illegal transaction allowed Bozanich to balance the city’s general fund that year.
Cascarilla said Bozanich “did not benefit $1 from the moving of money” and it “was not motivated by personal benefit. It was to help the city during a very difficult time.”
The unlawful counts were for another free round of golf from Briya and for not paying $10,000 in legal fees to attorney Stephen Garea for work he did for his ex-wife.
Marchionda, a co-defendant, was sentenced Thursday to five years of probation and 1,250 hours of community service for four felony tampering with records convictions.
The two took plea deals Aug. 7 to avoid trials on more serious felonies.
Bozanich was initially charged with 18 felonies and Marchionda with 66 in a 101-count indictment unsealed Aug. 30, 2018.
Also, Briya — who pleaded guilty to five felonies Sept. 10, 2019, as part of a deal to cooperate in the investigations against Marchionda, Bozanich and Sammarone — was sentenced Thursday to 180 days of house arrest as part of three years of community control and ordered to do 300 hours of community service. He was also fined $5,000.
Before his sentencing, Bozanich said: “I should have known better. I should have made better decisions. I regret my actions. I take full responsibility.”
Kasaris said: “Bribery goes against what public service is about: serving the public and not one’s self,” and that “greed and corruption destroy the legitimacy of government.”
Cascarilla said it was too early to consider an appeal of the sentence.
“We’ll take a look at the issues and go from there,” he said.
After the sentencing, Marchionda said he felt bad for Bozanich.
“It’s heartbreaking to see him taken away in handcuffs,” Marchionda said. “What I know is this: I know the person he was. He always wanted to move projects forward and get them done. When I worked through (city) economic development, the team there, he was always pushing to help me get things done.”
Marchionda, 63, of Poland, was convicted of creating four false invoices, totaling $260,625, to the city for work that was supposed to be for his Erie Terminal downtown housing project, but was actually for work for the Flats at Wick student housing complex.
Marchionda had originally been indicted on charges of misspending $600,000 in city funds on personal items in addition to misusing money obtained by the city, state and federal governments for Erie Terminal, Flats at Wick and Wick Towers, another downtown housing project.
“There’s a right way to develop properties and a wrong way to develop properties” and Marchionda “did it the wrong way,” Kasaris said.
Kasaris didn’t ask for a specific prison sentence for Marchionda before Sweeney’s decision, but requested one. His maximum sentence was 12 years.
“A lot of thought went into these invoices,” Kasaris said.
Before sentencing, Marchionda, who got choked up and tearful, said: “I cut corners when I should not have,” and because businesses were owed money for Flats at Wick “this is the avenue I took.”
He apologized and took “full and complete responsibility,” adding: “This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.”
During Marchionda’s sentencing, the back of the courtroom was packed with more than 50 of Marchionda’s family members and friends.
After he received five years of probation and 1,250 hours of community service — 250 for each year on probation — he said: “I’m going to pick up the pieces and get everything back together and move forward.”
He had previously agreed to pay $25,000 toward his prosecution.
Marchionda said he was satisfied with the sentence and was happy to do the community service.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Marchionda said.
John F. McCaffrey, his attorney, said the initial 101-count indictment “does not resemble” the outcome of the case.
“I don’t mean to undermine or demean the seriousness of the offenses he committed, but they were related to something that occurred in 2011,” McCaffrey said. “In my opinion, it’s something that should have been handled civilly, but it snowballed into this huge case which I believe was over-indicted.”
Marchionda agreed with McCaffrey, saying that if he did something wrong, tell him and he “would have corrected it.”
Before sentencing, Kasaris pointed out that Marchionda worked with others, including Briya and Garea, to knowingly defraud the city.
“The defendant states he wanted to be part of the solution and ended up being part of the problem,” Kasaris said.
Marchionda said he spent the past five years fighting this investigation when he could have been concentrating on developing two other buildings downtown.
Marchionda, who has sold several of his downtown properties, said he plans to do other projects in the city.
As part of his plea deal, Marchionda agreed to remove himself from management of four of his major companies, but said he’ll remain involved with them.
Also indicted Aug. 30, 2018, were 10 of Marchionda’s affiliated companies.
The plea agreement dropped charges against eight of them.
U.S. Campus Suites, involved in the development of Erie Terminal, pleading guilty to a felony count of receiving stolen property for illegally obtaining between $75,000 and $150,000 from Youngstown. It was fined $5,000 by Sweeney.
Rubino Construction Inc. pleaded guilty to a felony count of unauthorized use of property related to illegally obtaining money from the state for the Wick Tower project. It was an amended charge from receiving stolen property with the accusation it took more than $150,000 from the state. Rubino was fined $500.
In a prepared statement, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said: “Through a thorough investigation and vigorous prosecution, we’ve rooted out ongoing public corruption. If you think you’re above the law, take note — corruption has no place in Ohio government.”
In the same statement, Ohio Auditor Keith Faber said he values “our ability to bring justice to the people of Youngstown.”
The investigation started when a state auditor employee read an article in The Vindicator in 2008 about the fire station deal between the city and Marchionda’s company.
Briya, 73, of Canfield, was sentenced to 180 days of house arrest as part of three years of community control and 300 hours of community service.
He was convicted almost a year ago on five felonies: two counts of attempted bribery and one count each of tampering with records, grand theft and obstruction of justice.
Briya admitted to giving more than $100,000 in cash, meals, gifts and golf benefits to Bozanich over a decade, and of giving at least $9,000 in cash to Sammarone, when he was mayor, to corrupt them in their official capacities with the city.
He also admitted to providing a fake invoice to Marchionda, lying to a grand jury about the invoice, and taking between $75,000 and $150,000 from MS Consultants over a 15-year period to “benefit himself by bribing public officials.”
Briya was prepared to be a key witness against Marchionda, Bozanich and Sammarone if they didn’t take plea deals.
Before sentencing, Briya apologized and took full responsibility for his actions.
Kasaris had recommended 90 days of house arrest, but Sweeney gave Briya twice that amount.
Angelo Lonardo, his attorney, said after the sentence: “It’s fair. She’s always been a very fair judge. He accepts responsibility and he wants to move on.”