Wednesday's grand jury indictment of Youngstown Mayor John McNally, Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino and attorney Martin Yavorcik on political corruption charges is shining new light on an old corruption case involving a former Trumbull County commissioner.
The 67-page indictment, the result of an Ohio attorney general-led investigation into the purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place, also details substantial sums of money promised to or given to Yavorcik by an uncharged, unnamed businessman and businesswoman to curry influence of Yavorcik.
Former commissioner James Tsagaris went to prison for hiding a $36,500 loan from an unidentified businessman on financial disclosure statements required by the Ohio Ethics Commission in 2004 and 2005. He pleaded guilty to charges that he mailed the documents that concealed the loan.
The name of the businessman was never made public, but the indictment provides some insight into who that businessman might be.
According to the indictment, "Businessman 1," whom the document states provided former Mahoning County treasurer and chairwoman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party Lisa Antonini $3,000 in cash in January 2008, also paid cash to Tsagaris and offered to pay a John Doe $2,000 while all "were either candidates for office or actual elected officials" in Trumbull or Mahoning counties. John Doe refused the money.
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 donation from Anthony Cafaro Sr., former president of the Cafaro Co., on Jan. 16, 2008.
Further in Wednesday's indictment, it states Tsagaris was convicted of theft of honest services, mail fraud, ''a corrupt activity under Ohio law as a result'' of receiving ''more than $30,000 from Businessman 1.''
Tsagaris was originally sentenced to a year of house arrested because of his clean criminal record, age and health condition. However, he was reported to be in an area cigar store multiple times socializing and playing cards, lunching with a friend or seen driving his ill sister around town. Prosecutors said Tsagaris was flaunting his sentence and the judge agreed, which led to a nine-month prison term.
Antonini was sentenced to five months in prison.
A message seeking comment from Tsagaris was not returned.
Joe Bell, a spokesman for Cafaro Co., said ''none of our business entities, nor our retired president are charged with any crimes. Moreover, we're quite emphatic about the fact they have done nothing wrong.''
On the details alleged in the indictment, ''we've been through all of them before and we're not going to go back and rehash the minutia of allegations that were never proven in court in a case that prosecutors abandoned three years ago.''
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.
The new charges against McNally, Sciortino and Yavorcik include engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy, bribery, tampering with records and money laundering. They will be arraigned 8:30 a.m. May 29 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.
McNally said Thursday he is going to fight the charges, like he did in the last round of indictments against him, Sciortino, Yavorcik and others in relation to Oakhill. Those 2010 charges were eventually dropped
''Most of that stuff was stuff, quite frankly, that came up the first time,'' said McNally. ''It's stuff I disputed then and I will dispute going forward.''
Sciortino's cellular phone mailbox was full and would not accept messages. Yavorcik's attorney, Bill Summers, said Yavorcik, too, will fight the charges.
According to the indictment, Businessman 1 promised to pay Yavorcik or his campaign $120,000 in early 2008, but the money would be held back until the end of the campaign, which Yavorcik ran against Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains, so ''no one would know that the money had been promised'' to Yavorcik.
Also, ''the bulk of the money that fueled Martin Yavorcik's campaign came from or through Businessman 1, his brother and Businesswoman 1,'' the indictment states.
Businesswoman 1, according to the indictment, gave Yavorcik or his campaign a check for $40,000 in October 2008 as a political contribution, but really it was ''an inducement'' to run for prosecutor ''with the understanding that if elected he would not investigate or prosecute a matter.''
She also laundered or participated in laundering $15,000 to Yavorcik or his campaign, the indictment states.
In addition, an unnamed Cleveland-area law firm accepted ''hundreds of thousands of dollars'' in legal fees from Businessman 1 and / or Business 1, which owned and operated a plaza in Youngstown / Business 2, a nationwide retail development company based in Youngstown, to help certain county officials in a lawsuit between Ohio Valley Mall, a subsidiary of the Cafaro Co., and Mahoning County commissioners.
The taxpayer lawsuit filed by the Cafaros challenged the county's decision to purchase the Oakhill building in bankruptcy court.