Marchionda: ‘Time to Move on with My Life’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Poland businessman Dominic Marchionda says he’s accepted responsibility for his actions and is looking to move forward with his life.

The developer, along with former city finance director David Bozanich, pleaded guilty Friday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to reduced charges stemming from an indictment filed two years ago and a corruption probe that began at least five years ago.

“I’m forever grateful to the people of Mahoning County for reaching out to us and offering their prayers and support,” Marchionda said outside the Mahoning County Courthouse shortly after he admitted to four felony counts. “It’s time to move on with my life.”

Marchionda pleaded guilty to four counts of tampering with records, a third-degree felony. Bozanich pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful enrichment of a public official – a misdemeanor – and two felony counts of bribery and tampering with records.

Sentencing for both is scheduled for Sept. 3 at 10 a.m. before Judge Maureen Sweeney.

Both men were indicted in August 2018 on 101 counts of corruption charges ranging from bribery to racketeering.

Former Mayor Charles Sammarone was initially included in the indictment, but in March pleaded to reduced charges of two counts of tampering with records. He was sentenced to five years probation and 30 days of supervised community service.

As part of the plea arrangement, Marchionda has agreed to surrender his management duties — but not ownership interest – in Rubino Construction Inc., Wick Properties LLC, NYO Property Group and Erie Terminal Place LLC.

Rubino Construction pleaded to one count of unauthorized use of property. Another Marchionda-related entity, U.S. Campus Suites LLC, pleaded to one count of receiving stolen property.

Marchionda has also agreed to pay $25,000 at the time of sentencing for the cost of prosecution.

The felony counts relate to a fraudulent billing record that occurred on a single day in October 2011, said Marchionda’s attorney, John McCaffery. The record was falsified in order to secure float loan money from the city related to the Erie Terminal project that year.

In the initial indictment, prosecutors alleged that Marchionda used at least $600,000 in public money earmarked for downtown development projects for his own personal use.

Bozanich’s bribery conviction stems from accepting a free ticket from Ray Briya, former chief financial officer at MS Consultants, to a golf outing in 2012 valued at $800, said his attorney, Ralph Cascarilla.

Briya pleaded guilty last year to a five-count bill of information.

He reached a deal with prosecutors in which he would testify against Bozanich in order to avoid jail time.

In February, Briya testified during a pretrial hearing that he gave Bozanich $100,000 over a period of several years in exchange for city help with Exal Leasing Inc., a development company Briya had interest in that was building a new can manufacturing plant for Exal Corp.

The tampering with records count relates to Bozanich, as finance director, improperly moving $1 million from the city’s water and wastewater fund to its general fund in 2009, Cascarilla said. “Not one dime of that money went to Mr. Bozanich’s personal benefit. It was used to fund critical city services during the 2008 financial recession,” the attorney said.

In 2009, Marchionda was in the process of building the Flats at Wick, a housing complex on the corner of Madison Avenue and Elm Street for students attending Youngstown State University.

The city supported the project through a $1.2 million water/wastewater grant. Marchionda received the grant and used that money to purchase a fire station at the corner from the city for $1 million, and the money was deposited in the general fund.

Bozanich also pleaded to two counts of unlawful enrichment of a public official. These are related to another golf outing event Bozanich attended worth $400, and the other count relates to legal fees that were waived by attorney Stephen Garea in a case that involved Bozanich’s former wife.

Attorney Ralph Cascarilla stands beside David Bozanich as he enters a guilty plea.

Under the terms of the plea deal, Bozanich has agreed to pay $5,000 to cover the cost of prosecution. He has also agreed to forfeit his public employee retirement system, or PERS, pension, prosecutors said.

The 2018 indictment alleged that Bozanich accepted a $20,000 bribe from Philip Beshara, former president of B&B Contractors & Developers Inc. In exchange, prosecutors said Bozanich threw his support behind city financial incentives for The Flats at Wick, the student housing project developed by Marchionda in which B&B served as the general contractor.

During a hearing in January, Beshara testified that in 2009 he gave Bozanich $20,000 in cash at a Boardman restaurant in return for the city’s support for the project.

The felony counts Marchionda and Bozanich admitted to carry a maximum penalty 36 months in prison. The minimum would be a period of supervised community service.

Attorneys for both defendants say it’s telling that a 100-count indictment filed two years ago against their clients was, in the end, reduced to guilty pleas to just four counts each.

“This case began where it ended up,” Casarilla, said. “In August of 2018, the state indicted Mr. Bozanich on 18 felony counts – including in one of the counts 100 acts of racketeering activity,” his lawyer said.

McCaffery said the investigation into Marchionda began five years ago, and the 100-count indictment against his client that alleged theft, money laundering and bribery has boiled down to four counts involving a single billing statement on a single day in October 2011.

“This is what we’re left with, these four counts related to a single billing statement,” he said.

He said the court should take into consideration Marchionda’s accomplishments in redeveloping downtown Youngstown and other assets.

“We have a lot to say. He’s done a considerable amount for this community,” McCaffery said. “That’s all going to be taken into consideration from the judge.”

The Poland developer said that he and his family have helped spearhead investment in Youngstown when others would not.

“Property that once housed a dilapidated chemical electrical facility on Madison Avenue is now a thriving student housing community,” Marchionda said, referring to the Flats At Wick project.

Marchionda added that other successes such as the redevelopment of the Erie Terminal and Wick buildings into new apartment housing helped spur additional interest in the central business district.

Perhaps his crowning achievement was the transformation of the Stambaugh Building into a DoubeTree hotel, he said. “When you think about what that’s done for the city — we’ve gone from not having a hotel for over 40 years to people from all over the world staying in downtown Youngstown,” he said.

Still, Marchionda said he regrets his actions.

“I’ve accepted responsibility for those specific acts.”

Pictured at top: Attorney John McCaffery and his client, Dominic Marchionda, leave the Mahoning County Courthouse, following Marchionda’s guilty plea to four counts of tampering with records.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.