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Phil Chance Jr. gets jail for issuing fake conceal-carry permits

Ex-officer ordered to pay $14K for his crimes

Staff photo / Ed Runyan Phil Chance Jr., right, is led away to begin serving a six month jail sentence Wednesday. He also will serve six months house arrest and must reimburse the Mahoning County Sheriff’s office for its costs connected to the case. Handcuffing Chance is Deputy Bill Horn.

YOUNGSTOWN — The fall from grace for former Youngstown police officer Phil Chance Jr. took another plunge Wednesday as a judge ordered him to spend six months in jail for issuing 263 worthless carrying-a-concealed-weapon certificates.

Chance, 41, of Boardman, pleaded guilty earlier to six counts of tampering with records for the crimes, committed between 2011 and 2018.

Chance and his attorney, Damian Billak, discussed Chance’s spinal injuries, his role as sole caretaker for his elderly father, Phil Chance Sr., and the accidental way the scheme “got out of hand” in hopes that Judge Maureen Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court would refrain from sending him to prison.

She did not send him to prison but ordered jail time and another six months of electronically monitored house arrest. She ordered a $7,500 fine and ordered him to repay the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office $6,983 for the cost of notifying as many of the 263 people as possible that they needed to replace their bogus permit with a real one.

He also must perform 30 days of community service through the sheriff’s office during each year of his five years of probation.

Chance Jr. was taken immediately from the courtroom in handcuffs to begin serving his jail time, despite having brought his father to the hearing. Chance Sr., a former county sheriff, who uses a walker, left the courtroom by himself.

NOT QUALIFIED

Mike Yacovone, assistant county prosecutor, explained that Chance Jr.’s crime was issuing CCW permits “while he was not qualified to do so. He was not a certified instructor.

“In particular, there were many instances in which these individuals had certificates and never went to a class, never shot at a range, nothing like that. That’s obviously vital to having such a responsibility as having a certificate.”

He added, “So 263 individuals who should not have had a certificate had one to carry a gun.”

Chance charged about $100 for each CCW certificate.

Charles Jennings, 28, of Youngstown, who received one of the bogus certificates, later shot a man to death in Youngstown and was charged with murder. Jennings did have a legitimate permit at the time of the shooting, and a Mahoning County grand jury refused to indict him on any charges, however, Yacovone said.

In a dozen cases, people were pulled over by police thinking they had a valid CCW, but did not, Yacovone said.

The sheriff’s office contacted or tried to contact all 263 people to tell them they needed to “go through a legitimate instructor, get legitimate training, get legitimate classroom work and get a real certificate,” Yacavone said.

Yacovone asked Sweeney to give Chance Jr. prison time. His crimes called for prison of up to three years.

“There are still people out there that the sheriff’s department has not been able to contact,” Yacovone said. “So they are still out there presumably thinking they can carry, that they can presumably shoot somebody legitimately in self-defense, and that’s why this is so serious. With the uptick of gun violence in the city particularly and in Mahoning County, we feel that prison is appropriate.”

Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene told Sweeney process of trying to find all 263 people “cost my agency an incredible amount of time, effort.”

He said Chance also tried to deflect responsibility by telling the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent investigating the case that Greene, Major Jeff Allen and the sheriff’s office were corrupt.

THE CHANCES’ PAST

After the hearing, Greene called Chance Jr.’s allegation “incredible” considering the way Chance Jr.’s law enforcement career ended.

Chance resigned from the Youngstown Police Department in 2012 after officials received complaints from people who said Chance stole money from someone he came in contact with as an officer.

With the help of the FBI, police set up an “integrity test” for Chance, placing him in a situation where there was something of value for him to take. Chance failed the test, resigned and also gave up his certification to be a police officer in Ohio or face being fired and possible prosecution.

Phil Chance Sr. served as Mahoning County sheriff from Jan. 7, 1997, until July 16, 1999, but resigned amid allegations of impropriety. He was convicted after a trial in federal court and served a federal prison sentence.

Damian Billak, Chance Jr.’s lawyer, told Sweeney the reason Chance committed the crimes was because he was in a “difficult financial situation, a bad family situation.” The scheme started out small, Billak said.

“He wanted to make some money to help some friends. That’s how it started. Then it spiraled out of control.”

When Chance Jr. spoke to the judge, he apologized, saying: “I knew better, being a former policeman.”

He said his father is 72 and disabled. “I’m the caretaker for my father. I’m all he has. I pay half of his bills.”

Chance Jr. “also helps out his mom, running errands and those sorts of things,” Billak said.

Chance Jr. had “full spinal fusion surgery” and is “literally and figuratively inches away from paralysis,” Billak said. He suggested that with the law enforcement background of Chance Jr. and his father, Chance Jr. might be a target in prison. And with the spinal issues, he might not make it out alive.

“What might just be an altercation among inmates, in this situation, knowing who he is, who his family is, any type of physical altercation could result in paralysis,” Billak said.

Greene said he will probably send Chance to another jail “because we do not want any additional false accusations made.”

erunyan@tribtoday.com

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