Papers detail judge search

YOUNGSTOWN – Investigators looking for evidence of wrongdoing involving Mahoning County Probate Court Judge Mark Belinky took two computer towers and miscellaneous financial records from the judge’s home in Boardman.

A returned search warrant released Tuesday shows investigators also took 39 miscellaneous recordable compact discs and digital video discs, a compact disc labeled ”Judge Belinky Spots” and a cassette.

Agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the FBI and deputies from the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office on Friday raided the Windsor Road home owned by Belinky and his wife and the judge’s downtown Youngstown probate court office.

In addition, from a pencil cup in the judge’s kitchen, authorities took a gavel pencil – what appears to be toy campaign-related paraphernalia.

A returned warrant released Monday for Belinky’s chambers shows investigators took campaign finance reports and campaign records, notes presumably related to the Oakhill Renaissance corruption investigation and bank statements and financial records.

The campaign finance reports taken from Belinky’s chambers are from 2008, when he won his first six-year term on the bench. The nominating petitions are for this year’s Democratic primary election and the campaign checks are from 2004, when Belinky ran and lost in the Democratic primary race for county commissioner.

Also, investigators in late January were spotted at the Mahoning County Board of Elections, where, according to an official, they made copies of Belinky’s campaign finance reports.

The items taken from the court and Belinky’s home, according to the returned warrants, 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 affidavits used to obtain the search warrants are sealed.

Belinky has not been charged.

The Oakhill Renaissance Center was the focus 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 the 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.

Belinky, who earns $105,000 a year as probate judge, has liens against him for $19,000 to the state, $41,000 to the IRS, $1,600 to Mahoning County and $20,000 he owes a Florida businessman for a campaign loan.