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Oakhill Indictments List 'Pattern of Corrupt Activity'
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- The charges are similar in nature to ones filed in 2010, when three Mahoning County officeholders, a prominent businessman and his sister, a local attorney, and a county employee were indicted on charges of corruption.
However, this time prosecutors have presented a detailed indictment (DOWNLOAD INDICTMENT) that describes precisely the instances in which they allege these public officials and business people in Mahoning County engaged in a litany of corrupt activity that includes bribery, theft in office, tampering with evidence, money laundering, perjury, and conspiracy (READ STORY).
And, this time, the legal drama will be played out in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, not in Mahoning County as it was four years ago.
On Wednesday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty announced that a Cuyahoga County grand jury handed up a 73-count indictment against Mayor John McNally, Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino, and local attorney Martin Yavorcik on multiple charges of public corruption.
"Those officials received checks, cash, free legal services and other benefits or gifts to conduct themselves inconsistent with the public trust they were obligated to protect and then lied about their actions and who they were acting with," the indictment says.
The charges stem from Mahoning County's 2006 purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place, formerly the Southside Medical Center, from U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The county wanted to purchase the building and relocate its Department of Job and Family Services there from offices that were at the time housed in a plaza owned by the Cafaro Co. of Youngstown.
Then Cafaro Co, president Anthony Cafaro Sr., and the Cafaro Co. attempted to block the move by filing a taxpayer lawsuit against the county, arguing it was a waste of taxpayer dollars to purchase the building. Also opposing the move and the purchase of Oakhill were three Mahoning County officeholders, McNally (then a Mahoning County commissioner), Sciortino, and then treasurer John Reardon. The three also filed opposition motions to block the sale out of bankruptcy court.
The three, along with Cafaro and his sister, Flora Cafaro, Yavorcik, and former Mahoning County JFS Director John Zachariah were indicted in 2010 on public corruption charges, alleging Cafaro wielded his influence among the officials to block the sale so he could preserve the lease at Garland Plaza. Those charges were dismissed a year later after prosecutors were unable to obtain audio recordings from the FBI that had relevance to the case. The charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could be re-filed.
DeWine said the three defendants would not be arrested and instead a summons would be issued to each of them to appear in court. The case is being heard in Cuyahoga County since acts allegedly committed by two of the law firms, both based in Cleveland, occurred in Cleveland.
The new charges say that McNally, Sciortino, and Yavorcik engaged in a pattern of corrupt activity from January 2005 to January 31, 2014 with a party identified in the indictment only as "Businessman 1." Others mentioned in the indictment but not charged were former Mahoning County treasurers Lisa Antonini and John Reardon, disbarred attorney Richard Goldberg, and Zachariah. Others mentioned but unnamed include Businessman 1, Businessman 2, Businesswoman 1, and two anonymous businesses, referred to as Business 1 and Business 2.
According to the indictment, McNally "was organizer and leader of the public officials" and "breached the sanctity of confidentiality on more than one occasion to obstruct Mahoning County from purchasing a building by divulging material to Businessman 1 or his attorneys that by law was confidential."
The state, for example, says that McNally testified under oath that he never gave or forwarded to anyone a copy of Mahoning County's confidential offer to purchase Oakhill. However, the state says the mayor perjured himself, citing other testimony and "at least one fax from John McNally's law office faxing the confidential document to Law Firm 2 in Cuyahoga County."
Other allegations against McNally and Sciortino include charges that "Businessman 1" and/or "Business1" and "Business 2" assisted with legal fees that helped prepare the county officeholders' objection in bankruptcy court, the indictment says.
Also, the indictment alleges that Businessman 1 and his attorneys on numerous occasions failed to turn over or removed documents pertinent to the Oakhill case. For example, the indictment claims handwritten notes referencing meetings with Sciortino and McNally were withheld or concealed from the court.
Also, the indictment alleges that all three defendants received some benefits from Businessman 1 during the course of the Oakhill case, especially legal advice or assistance from Businessman 1's company's law firms. During the Oakhill case, those officials that did not fall in line were pressured, the indictment says, as in the case of one official.
"When an official resisted Businessman 1, Business 1 attorneys threatened such official with personal legal action," documents say.
In respect to Yavorcik, the charges center on the attorney's bid to challenge incumbent Paul Gains for Mahoning County prosecutor. Gains was also representing the county during the taxpayer lawsuit, and Businessman 1 "provided a benefit to Martin Yavorcik from November of 2007 to November of 2008 to run for county prosecutor," according to documents.
The idea was to get Yavorcik elected with the promise that he would not pursue prosecution of the Oakhill defendants once in office, the state alleges.
According to the indictment, Businessman 1 provided former treasurer and Mahoning County Democratic Party chairwoman Antonini with $3,000 cash in return for her support of Yavorcik, who ran as an independent. Antonini failed to report the gift on her campaign finance report and was convicted by a federal court of honest mail fraud and is now serving the remainder of a five-month sentence in a local halfway house.
The indictment also alleges that Businessman 1 promised to pay Yavorcik or his campaign $120,000 in early 2008, but that money would be withheld until the end of the campaign and not paid until after the election. Another $15,000 was laundered to Yavorcik's campaign via Businesswoman 1. Businesswoman 1, the indictment alleges, also provided inducements totaling $40,000 in order to prompt Yavorcik to run for prosecutor against Gains.
"Yavorcik accepted benefits in the form of money and services from Lisa Antonini, Businessman 1, Michael Sciortino, others and John McNally so that in the event he became county prosecutor in 2009 none of these people would be prosecuted or investigated," the indictment states. "Yavorcik further filed false campaign finance reports, created a false receipt, and tampered with records. He also stated he would fix cases in two court systems in Mahoning County."
Another candidate for office, identified only as John Doe 1, was also offered $2,000 cash from Businessman 1 but refused the money, according to court documents. Businesswoman 1 was also present on a second occasion when more cash was offered to John Doe 1, who once again turned down the money.
Copyright 2013 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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