Belinky warrant released

YOUNGSTOWN Friday’s search of Mahoning County Probate Judge Mark Belinky’s office resulted in investigators taking copies of 2008 campaign finance reports and “Oakhill notes,” a returned search warrant released Monday shows.

Among the several other items investigators took with them were financial records, a computer and a copy of the 2014 nominating petitions Belinky used to file in the May Democratic primary election.

Meanwhile, investigators a few weeks prior were at the Mahoning County Board of Elections, inside the Oakhill Renaissance Center, for copies of Belinky’s campaign finance reports.

Belinky’s court chambers and a search of his Windsor Road home, also done Friday, were conducted as part of what’s being called an “ongoing criminal investigation,” led by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Attorney General spokesman Dan Tierney declined to identify who or which agency requested help from BCI or comment on the activity at the elections board.

The items taken from the court, according to the returned warrant, are evidence of the criminal offenses of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with records, bribery, money laundering, theft and theft in office.

The raids, first reported on the Tribune Chronicle’s website, were done with the help of the FBI and the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office.

A returned warrant for Belinky’s home in Boardman was not available on Monday. It should be ready for release today.

An official at the Mahoning County Board of Elections said investigators were there at least two days the week of the Martin Luther King holiday in January for copies of Belinky’s campaign finance reports.

It’s unknown at this point, though, how or if the events at the court, the judge’s home and the elections board are related.

The elections board is in the building that appears in documents taken by investigators at the court, according to an inventory list. According to it, “Oakhill notes,” a “list of employees” and “Misc. notes” were taken from the desk in the judge’s office.

The Oakhill Renaissance Center was at the center of a criminal probe that included the former president of The Cafaro Co., Anthony Cafaro Sr., and several public officials, who were accused of conspiring to stop Mahoning County from buying the building for office space and move out of a Cafaro-owned property.

All maintained their innocence during the proceedings. The case was dismissed, on prosecutor’s request, because the FBI, which, according to unsealed records in the case, conducted surveillance on some of the defendants, refused to give prosecutors surveillance tapes.

Other documents released after the case was dismissed indicated two current judges and a retired judge might be witnesses or potential targets in the case. No current or former judge was charged in the Oakhill case.

A search of the 2008 general and primary election campaign finance reports taken by investigators show some instances where defendants in the case contributed to the judge’s campaign.

In the judge’s 2008 pre-primary election report, John McNally, Youngstown mayor and former Mahoning County commissioner, and John Reardon, former Mahoning County treasurer, each contributed $200 to Belinky in January 2008.

In a report before the 2008 general election, McNally gave Belinky a total of $300, a $100 contribution in April 2008 and the other, $200 in September. County Auditor Michael Sciortino gave $100 to the judge’s campaign in April; and Cafaro contributed $400 in August.

Meanwhile, the judge said in statement that the court is functioning properly despite the raid.

“Despite the events of the last few days, I wish to assure the residents of Mahoning County that the Probate Court is open for business and will continue to serve the public in a professional and respectful manner,” Belinky wrote.

He continued, “I have cooperated with law enforcement in this investigation and will continue to cooperate.”