New Oakhill Evidence Cites Recorded Phone Calls

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- A Cleveland law firm was paid "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in legal fees by a businessman or his related businesses to help public officials oppose Mahoning County's purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place in 2006, an indictment filed by a Cuyahoga County grand jury says.

It's presumed that the businessman is Anthony Cafaro Sr., former president of the Cafaro Co. and its subsidiary, Ohio Valley Mall, based on previous testimony and court transcripts related to a similar case brought against Cafaro and six other defendants four years ago.

On Wednesday, state Attorney General Mike DeWine presented a 73-count indictment (CLICK TO DOWNLOAD) against Mayor John McNally, Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino and attorney Martin Yavorcik, alleging they engaged in a pattern of corrupt activity, bribery, perjury, tampering with records and other violations.

The case four years ago was dismissed because prosecutors could not obtain thousands of hours of recorded telephone conversations in the possession of the FBI that was considered material evidence, and therefore could not be supplied to the defense.

This time, however, it appears as though the state has obtained additional evidence that includes recorded telephone conversations between the parties, as referenced in court documents.

The latest charges relate to the roles McNally, Sciortino and Yavorcik played in opposing the county's purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place in 2006. The county wanted to buy Oakhill and relocate its Department of Job and Family Services there from Garland Plaza, owned by the Cafaro Co.

According to the indictment, the officeholders are accused of interceding on behalf "Businessman 1," presumed to be Cafaro, to stop the county's purchase. In return, "those officials received checks, cash, free legal services and other benefits or gifts to conduct themselves inconsistent with the public trust they were obligated to protect and then lied about their actions and who they were acting with," the indictment says.

Businessman 1 was not charged, however, but is implicated in engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, including perjury, along with the defendants, the indictment says. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Wednesday the criminal investigation is continuing: "This is not over."

Prosecutors cite evidence such as telephone calls and handwritten notes to help support their case, according to court documents.

In once instance related to Businessman 1, the indictment says that the party knowingly made a false statement under oath during the course of the taxpayer lawsuit Cafaro filed. "He, in summary, testified on pages 160-161 that he was not involved in the taxpayer lawsuit after it was filed on Aug. 7, 2006, when more than 20 pages of his own handwritten notes establish that such testimony was false," court documents say.

The state also cites telephone calls between McNally and one of the attorneys from "Law Firm 1" as evidence identified in the indictment. In this case, the allegation focuses on the law firm concealing evidence from a grand jury. The material consisted of "evidence of a phone call Attorney 3 had with John McNally regarding request for extension on bankruptcy appeal."

Other allegations involving tampering with evidence say Businessman 1 concealed evidence of a conversation with the Mahoning County auditor regarding the Oakhill purchase. "Concealed from the grand jury evidence of a phone call with Mahoning County auditor regarding Oakhill purchase; conferred with Attorney 8 regarding ability of Law Firm 3 to file state court action when such phone call occurred in Mahoning County and Cuyahoga County, Ohio," the charge says.

Another charge alleges that Law Firm 1 concealed evidence from the grand jury related to discussions with McNally considering a bond issue. "Concealed from the grand jury evidence of a phone call with John McNally regarding progress if bond issue when such phone call occurred in Mahoning and Cuyahoga County, Ohio."

McNally, Sciortino and Yavorcik are scheduled for arraignment at 8:30 a.m. May 29 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

McNally Minimizes Charges; 'I've Been Proven Correct'
Oakhill Indictments List 'Pattern of Corrupt Activity'
Mayor's Indictment Concerns Regional Chamber's President
McNally, Sciortino, Yavorcik Charged with Public Corruption

Copyright 2013 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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