DeWine closes Oakhill probe

YOUNGSTOWN — When Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine announced Tuesday’s indictment of former Niles Mayor Ralph Infante on 56 counts involving bribery, gambling and conspiracy, he also pronounced the closure of the investigation of another corruption case involving Youngstown’s mayor and Mahoning County’s former auditor.

At the end of a news release announcing the Infante indictment, DeWine said: “While some matters like Oakhill are now done (and we anticipate no further indictments in Oakhill), we will continue to help local governments, when requested, investigate and prosecute wrongdoing, just like we have done in Niles and elsewhere around Ohio.”

Attorney general spokesman Dan Tierney confirmed Wednesday that last spring’s sentencing of attorney Martin Yavorcik was the final chapter in the long-running Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal corruption probe in Mahoning County.

In his remarks, DeWine showed he was pleased with the outcome of that probe.

“The Oakhill investigation has been completed, yielding significant successes, including guilty pleas and guilty verdicts for high-ranking county officials, candidates and judges,” DeWine said.

Yavorcik, former Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino and Youngstown Mayor John McNally were all convicted on charges  linked to what authorities said were illegal  moves to stop the  Mahoning County Department of Job and Family Services from moving away from the Cafaro Co.-owned Garland Plaza to Oakhill, the former South Side Hospital.

Yavorcik, who rejected a plea deal, was sentenced to one year of house arrest and five years probation  after his March 25 conviction by a jury on eight felony counts, one count each of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy and tampering with records; three counts of bribery; and two counts of money laundering.

Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge Janet Burnside rejected Yavorcik’s appeal of the conviction.

Earlier, McNally and Sciortino made plea deals with prosecutors, avoiding jury trials and possibly prison terms. They both were placed on one year of probation and given 20 hours of community service. Both were ordered to place their attorney license to inactive status.

Authorities accused Yavorcik of making promises as an unsuccessful candidate for Mahoning County prosecutor in 2008 to end the Oakhill investigation  if elected. He was defeated by incumbent Paul Gains.

Authorities said while McNally was Mahoning County commissioner, he and Sciortino received help from developer Anthony Cafaro in a fight with other county officials to block the move of JFS to Oakhill, which the county bought in 2007.

Cafaro was not charged.