Youngstown Mayor John McNally and Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino were part of a criminal enterprise that used money and legal services to influence elected officials, then attempted to hide their conduct through lies and bribery, according to indictments.
A Cuyahoga County grand jury on Wednesday handed up indictments against McNally, Sciortino and attorney Martin Yavorcik on corruption charges, the result of an investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office into the county’s purchase of the Oakhill Renaissance Place.
The indictment accuses McNally, Sciortino and others of bribing Yavorcik to make an investigation and prosecution go away if Yavorcik were elected county prosecutor.
In one instance, the indictment claims Yavorcik accepted money from an unnamed businesswoman to do a poll in March 2008 for his political campaign for county prosecutor under the guise the money was for a retainer, ”when in fact it was not.”
Also, the businesswoman’s name is on a $40,000 check for a political contribution when it was really ”an inducement” for Yavorcik to run for prosecutor with the understanding that ”if elected, he would not investigate or prosecute a matter.”
In 2010, the three faced charges related to the purchase of Oakhill when a grand jury in Mahoning County handed up indictments against them and several others, including retired Cafaro Co. President Anthony Cafaro Sr., former Mahoning County Treasurer John Reardon and former Mahoning County Jobs and Family Services Director John Zachariah.
The 2010 charges came after the county purchased Oakhill in bankruptcy court in 2006 and moved the Department of Job and Family Services there in July 2007. According to the grand jury indictment, the offenses were designed to keep JFS from moving from the Cafaro-owned Garland Plaza and into Oakhill.
In 2011, special prosecutors dropped the criminal case, saying their inability to obtain tape recordings held by the FBI and provide them to defense lawyers made it impossible to proceed with the case. The 73-count indictment was dismissed without prejudice, meaning charges could be refiled.
There is some ”commonality” between the indictments, said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who with Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, announced the newest charges in Cleveland, but the latest indictments are the result of an ”independent look” DeWine said his office took of the county’s purchase of the building on Oak Hill Avenue just outside of downtown Youngstown.
McNally, who was a Mahoning County commissioner during the time of the allegations, said ”my frustration level was through the roof with this whole subject.” He said he intends to address the allegations with the media today.
Bill Summers, a Cleveland-area attorney representing Yavorcik, said the charges will be fought and likened the indictment to a fairy tale.
”The only thing the grand jury left out is really the necessary words at the beginning of the indictment, ‘once upon a time,”’ Summers said.
A message seeking comment was left with Sciortino but was not returned.
The charges handed up against McNally, Sciortino and Yavorcik in the 67-page indictment are:
McNally – One count each of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and money laundering; two counts each of conspiracy, bribery, telecommunications fraud and theft in office; six counts of tampering with records; and nine counts of perjury, all felonies; two counts of unlawful compensation, three counts of disclosing confidential information and four counts of prohibited acts, ethics, all misdemeanors.
Sciortino – One count each of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and money laundering, two counts each of conspiracy and bribery, four counts of tampering with records and six counts of perjury, all felonies; two counts of unlawful compensation and four counts of prohibited acts, ethics, all misdemeanors.
Yavorcik – One count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, two counts of conspiracy, three counts of bribery, 17 counts of tampering with records and four counts of money laundering, all felonies
The alleged corruption is believed to have happened in Mahoning and Cuyahoga counties.
Arraignment dates have not been set. McNally, Sciortino and Yavorcik will be sent summonses to appear in court.
DeWine said because the charges against Sciortino are felonies ”related to the administration of and conduct in the performance to the duty of his office,” he is required by Ohio law to forward a copy of the indictment to the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, who will put together a commission to review the document.
This could result in Sciortino being removed from office pending the result of the case. The same does not apply to McNally because he is no longer county commissioner.
According to the indictment, McNally, Sciortino and Yavorcik engaged in a pattern of corrupt activity that began in January 2005 with others, including two businessmen, identified as ”businessman 1” and ”businessman 2”; a businesswoman; two businesses; Zachariah; Lisa Antonini, former treasurer in Mahoning County and former chairwoman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, who went to prison for not reporting a $3,000 gift from a local businessman; Richard Goldberg, a former attorney; and the campaign committees of Antonini, Yavorcik, McNally and Sciortino.
Zachariah, Antonini and Goldberg have not been charged.
It states that the ”structure” of the organization starts with businessman 1, ”acting to protect his interest in a number of issues,” including a lease with Mahoning County and several public officials who helped businessman 1 ”to support his initiative” to keep the county’s Department of Job and Family Services ”at a facility owned by a company he was or is a principle in.”
Also, ”Businessman 1” is described in the indictment, in part, as providing Antonini $3,000 in cash in January 2008.
According to the charges filed against Antonini, a businessman gave her a $3,000 gift on Jan. 16, 2008, and on the same day, the same businessman gave her a $200 contribution. A search of Antonini’s campaign finance report shows a $200 contribution from Cafaro Sr., then the president of the Cafaro Co., on Jan. 16, 2008.
Joe Bell, a spokesman for Cafaro Co., said the indictment doesn’t refer to criminal charges of anyone in the company or name anyone in the company, so he declined to comment.
Cafaro has not been charged.
McNally, according to the indictment, ”was organizer and leader of the public officials.”
McNally ”breached the sanctity” of confidentiality more than once ”to obstruct” the county from buying a building by ”divulging material to Businessman 1 or his attorneys that by law was confidential.”
The investigation is ongoing, but ”whether there will be more charges, I simply cannot say at this moment,” DeWine said.
Also, the case against former Mahoning County Probate Court Judge Mark Belinky, who has pleaded guilty to a charge claiming he hid campaign contributions is not related, DeWine said. They are ”separate cases” with a ”separate set of facts.”
He also would not say if Antonini is cooperating with the investigation.