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Sandusky mall owners indicted

Jason Singer • Aug 2, 2010 at 12:03 AM


Bribing elected officials. Money laundering. Conspiracy. Corruption.

The owners of Sandusky Mall face these and many other charges following an indictment last week in Mahoning County.

A special grand jury delivered the 73-count, 43-page indictment on Thursday after a nearly two-year investigation.

Defendants include The Cafaro Co., which owns Sandusky Mall, as well as Anthony Cafaro Sr., the company's recently retired president, and Flora Cafaro, part-owner of the company.

The indictment stems from alleged illegal activities that took place from February 2004 to December 2008.

In a news release, Cafaro Sr. called the charges "meritless" and said, "I look forward to proving my innocence."

In addition to the Cafaros and their company, the defendants also include Mahoning County commissioner John McNally; Mahoning County auditor Michael Sciortino; former Mahoning County treasurer John Reardon; former Mahoning County Job and Family Services director John Zachariah; attorney Martin Yavorcik; the Ohio Valley Mall Company; and The Marion Plaza.

The seven people and three businesses are accused of conspiring to keep Mahoning County from purchasing Oakhill Renaissance Place, a Youngstown building that would house the Mahoning County Jobs and Family Services office.

The Jobs and Family Service office previously had leased space from Cafaro-owned properties.

The charges range from engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity to bribery, perjury, conspiracy, money laundering, disclosure of confidential information and soliciting or accepting improper compensation, among others.

Joe Bell, a spokesman for the Cafaro Co. said Saturday afternoon the indictment wasn't a surprise.

"Because this investigation's been going of for two years, and they spoke to numerous public officials and with subpoenas and records, everybody knew there was an investigation," Bell said. "We just don't know where it's going or where it's coming from."

He also said the indictment won't affect Sandusky Mall "because it operates as an independent business."

The charges arose from a 2006 taxpayer lawsuit that challenged the decision of the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners to purchase Oakhill Renaissance Place, the Cafaro Co.'s statement said.

Cafaro Sr. said he was right to support that lawsuit and oppose the purchase.

"The taxpayer lawsuit raised concerns about the hidden, multi-million dollar costs to the Mahoning County taxpayers of purchasing Oakhill," his statement said. "This unfounded indictment will not silence my opposition to irresponsible governance."

The Cafaro family already had legal trouble once this year.

John J. Cafaro, the recently retired executive vice president of the Cafaro Co., was convicted in June on one federal charge after influencing a staff worker on his daughter's 2004 U.S. congressional campaign to hide a $10,000 donation.

He was sentenced to 150 hours of community service and a $250,000 fine.

If convicted, Thursday's charges would come with a much stiffer penalty. Cafaro Sr. faces charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy, perjury, bribery and money laundering.

Flora Cafaro, Cafaro Sr.'s sister, faces one count of money laundering.

Bell, the company's spokesman, said the family would beat the charges.

"We're not going anywhere," he said. "We're confident that all people named in the indictment will be vindicated. No doubt about that."

Click on the link below to read the indictment.

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