A key witness in Youngstown corruption cases faces five felonies related to the investigation
Raymond Briya – a key witness in the corruption cases against ex-Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone, former city Finance Director David Bozanich and developer Dominic Marchionda – was charged in a bill of information with five felonies related to the probe.
Briya, 72, a former MS Consultants Inc. chief financial officer, was charged Thursday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court with two counts of attempted bribery as well as one count each of tampering with records, grand theft and obstructing justice. All are felonies.
The Vindicator exclusively reported Saturday that Briya would be charged Thursday in a bill of information.
A bill of information is filed when a defendant waives an indictment and agrees to be prosecuted in court and declines to have his case presented to a grand jury. This usually means a defendant has reached a plea agreement with the prosecutor.
Briya, who is cooperating with prosecutors, is expected to plead guilty to the charges and be sentenced at later dates, according to sources.
Also, John Shultz, Sammarone’s attorney, told The Vindicator that Dan Kasaris, a special Mahoning County prosecutor and a senior assistant Ohio attorney general, told him during a closed-door pretrial hearing last Friday that Briya was accepting the bill of information and would be sentenced later “to get his continued cooperation.”
Kasaris has declined to comment.
A 101-count indictment against the three defendants and 10 of Marchionda’s companies, unsealed Aug. 20, 2018, lists John Doe 6 as an employee of Company 2 who is alleged to have provided benefits to Bozanich, Sammarone and others over at least a 10-year period in exchange for work for the company without the company’s knowledge and to have received benefits from Marchionda.
Briya is John Doe 6 and MS Consultants is Company 2.
The bill of information provides more insight into the alleged scheme and Briya’s involvement, though much has previously been reported.
The attempted bribery counts accuse Briya of giving more than $100,000 in cash, meals, gifts and golf benefits to Bozanich over a decade, and of giving at least $9,000 in cash to Sammarone “with purpose to corrupt” them in their official positions with Youngstown.
The tampering-with-records count alleges Briya provided a false invoice on or about Oct. 6, 2011, for $105,000 on Marchionda’s Erie Terminal project – the bill of information contends about $8,000 worth of work was actually done – so the developer could pay off part of a $170,000 debt he owed to MS for the Flats project. The indictment alleges Marchionda gave Briya an undisclosed “benefit” once the debt was paid.
The grand theft count alleges Briya took between $75,000 and $150,000 from MS over a 15-year period “so that he could benefit himself by bribing public officials including Charles Sammarone and David Bozanich” without the company’s knowledge.
The obstructing justice count contends on or about Oct. 27, 2017, Briya, “with purpose to hinder” the investigation into Marchionda, “lied to a Mahoning County grand jury about the false invoice he had provided Dominic Marchionda.”
The court’s assignment office will assign Briya’s case Tuesday to Judge Maureen Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, who is overseeing the cases of Sammarone, Bozanich, Marchionda and the latter’s companies.
The indictment accuses the defendants and others of operating a criminal enterprise. The defendants are charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, bribery, aggravated theft and tampering with records. They’ve all pleaded not guilty.
Marchionda is accused of improperly spending at least $600,000 from city funds on personal items and of misusing an undetermined amount of money obtained from state and federal governments on the Flats at Wick, Erie Terminal Place and Wick Towers projects.
Bozanich and Sammarone are accused of accepting bribes while serving as finance director and mayor, respectively.
Sammarone’s trial is scheduled to start March 16, 2020, while the other defendants are being tried together. That trial is supposed to begin June 1, 2020.
Meanwhile, Judge Sweeney agreed to a request from Bozanich, Marchionda and the Marchionda-run companies to disclose the grand jury testimony of David Kiraly, an architect. Kiraly is not in the indictment or charged with a crime. First National Bank hired Kiraly to inspect Erie Terminal before any loans were given by the city to Marchionda to pay bills for that work.