Judge accused of stealing cash from deceased client

YOUNGSTOWN — A Mahoning County judge in Sebring faces federal felony charges connected to the theft of at least $96,200 from a deceased client.

According to a news release from U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman and FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony, Judge Diane Vettori-Caraballo, 49, of Youngstown, was charged through a bill of information with one count each of fraud, structuring cash deposits and making false statements to law enforcement.

In response, the Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday afternoon ordered Vettori-Caraballo be disqualified from acting as a judge while the federal case is pending. She was elected in 2002 as judge of the county court No. 3 in Sebring and was re-elected in 2006 and 2012.

The document states the federal charges deal with Vettori-Caraballo’s role as private attorney. According to the criminal charge, the judge is accused of stealing cash that was in the Boardman home of a client who died in March 2016.

The document accuses Vettori-Caraballo of stealing between $96,200 and $328,000 in cash at the same time the judge was working with Probate Court on the estate of the Boardman client.

The criminal document also accuses the judge of structuring 22 deposits of the stolen cash into five different banks within four weeks to avoid regulations that require banks to report cash transactions over $10,000 to the IRS.

In addition, the written charge states the judge lied to the FBI when she was confronted about the theft and the structuring of cash deposits.

The case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian McDonough and Ann C. Rowland, the news release states.

A call was made Tuesday afternoon to Vettori-Caraballo’s law office in Boardman.

A secretary answered and took a message seeking comment from the judge about the charges, but a call was not returned.

A call made to the county court in Sebring was referred to the court’s administrative judge, Scott Hunter of Canfield, who is responsible for filling in for Vettori-Caraballo during her suspension.

Hunter was on the bench late Tuesday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.

As county court judge, Vettori-Caraballo had jurisdiction over misdemeanor criminal and traffic charges, small claims and civil complaints, initial appearances on felony charges and probation violations that occur in the villages of Sebring and Beloit plus Berlin, Green, Goshen, Ellsworth, Smith and Washingtonville townships in southwestern Mahoning County.