Top crime and political corruption moments
The Vindicator has reported on the famous and infamous. Here is a look back at 15 of the top crime and political corruption moments in the newspaper’s history.
April 19, 1922: The Ku Klux Klan begins to rise to power in the area. Nine hooded Klansmen gave $25 to the New Castle, Pa., YMCA at a fundraiser. Catholics, Jews and Blacks denounce the Klan as “sinister.”
Though the KKK claimed to be apolitical, candidates backed by the group win the 1923 mayoral elections in Youngstown, Niles, Warren, Girard and Struthers and carrying the Youngstown school board and a majority of Youngstown City Council. The Klan bought a 400-acre farm near the Canfield Fairgrounds for events that included exploding bombs and burning crosses, and demanding school districts employ only American teachers.
The KKK came to blows with Irish and Italian immigrants in Niles in the summer and fall of 1924, and the National Guard had to be called in to put down a riot there in November of that year. The Klan’s political empire is destroyed by 1926.
Jan. 26, 1948: Popular with bookmakers, crapshooters and other gamblers, the notorious Jungle Inn in Liberty is raided with gambling equipment removed. Two months later, it reopens under the front of Army-Navy Union Garrison 504. In October, the Youngstown police department cuts off the place’s phone service. It takes Gov. Frank Lausche and a squad of state liquor agents to permanently close it down in August 1949.
March 11, 1960: Rackets kingpin S. Joseph “Sandy” Naples and his girlfriend, Mary Ann Vrancich, are gunned down on her porch while Naples was on a weekend furlough from prison, where he was serving a sentence for racketeering. On July 22, 1962, a car bomb kills William “Billy” Naples, Sandy’s brother and successor as head of the local mob, in a violent explosion that demolished not only the car but a four-car garage and rattled Youngstown’s North Side.
Nov. 23, 1962: Longtime racketeer Charles “Cadillac Charlie” Cavallaro and his 11-year-old son, Tommy, were killed, and another son, Charles Jr., 12, was critically injured in a Youngstown North Side car bombing as the mobster was taking his kids to football practice. It was the first mob hit that saw children become the victim of such violence. The murders led U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to order a full-scale FBI investigation though no one was ever arrested. In a 1963 cover story, the Saturday Evening Post dubbed Youngstown “Crime Town USA,” a name that would stick for many years.
Oct. 31, 1968: A federal grand jury indicts 10 people in a $500,000 postal money order forgery ring, headquartered in Youngstown. The indictment contends Youngstown racketeer Mario Guerrieri was the ringleader. The 10 were charged with conspiring to receive, conceal and sell stolen postal orders.
July 7, 1974: A burglary ring was uncovered in the Youngstown Police Department with members committing break-ins and thefts while on the beat over a two-year period. The scandal resulted in the eventual conviction of 13 Youngstown policemen and the suspension of several others who were not directly involved.
Aug. 9, 1982: James A. Traficant Jr., then the Mahoning County sheriff, is arrested by federal authorities on bribery and income- tax charges. The following year, acting as his own attorney, Traficant was acquitted in federal court in Cleveland. The charges came from tape recordings made by the Carabbia crime faction during Traficant’s election campaign. Traficant countered that campaign money taken from Mafia boss Jimmy Prato was part of his own strategy to set up the mob for criminal investigation. Traficant later lost a civil case and was assessed back taxes on the $163,000 he took from the mob. In 1984, he successfully ran for Congress.
May 20, 1985: An illegal fireworks business exploded on Western Reserve Road in Beaver Township, killing nine. The explosion occurred in a barn on a former farm.
Aug. 19, 1991: Joseph N. “Little Joey” Naples Jr., who took over the local mob from his brothers, was gunned down while checking out the house he was having built in Beaver Township.
Jan. 30, 1993: Mickey Monus, who led the Youngstown-based Phar-Mor, was federally indicted on 129 counts of defrauding investors of more than $1.1 billion and embezzling $1.1 million from the drug-store chain in what was then one of the largest cases of corporate fraud in the nation. He was sentenced in December 1995 to nearly 20 years in prison. Phar-Mor filed for bankruptcy protection and eventually went out of business.
Dec. 31, 1995: Youngstown finishes 1995 with 68 homicides, the most in any one year in the city. It wasn’t much better in 1994 when 54 homicides were reported. During the 1990s, the city recorded more than 500 murders, many of them the result of an influx of crack cocaine and various gang-related violence.
Dec. 26, 1996: A month after being elected Mahoning County prosecutor, and just before he was to take office, Paul J. Gains was shot – and survived – a mob hit. The Mafia was concerned that with Gains as prosecutor, it would no longer receive cooperation from that office. Three men who arranged the shooting were sentenced to life in prison with no parole on convictions of racketeering, conspiracy to racketeering and illegal gambling.
Feb. 2, 1999: A four-year federal probe into corruption in the Mahoning Valley leads to several indictments. Local mob boss Lenny Strollo turns state’s evidence, resulting in the convictions of fellow gangsters and several public officials. Then-Mahoning County Sheriff Phil Chance is charged and later convicted of racketeering crimes.
April 11, 2002: U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. was convicted on 10 felony counts including bribery, racketeering and tax evasion in federal court. Again, he acted as his own lawyer, but this time without success. He was expelled from Congress in July 2002 and less than a week later he was sentenced to eight years in prison.
July 29, 2010: Mahoning County Commissioner John A. McNally; county Auditor Michael V. Sciortino; Atty. Martin Yavorcik; former county Treasurer John Reardon; and Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., the retired president of the Cafaro Co.; the Cafaro Co.; and others are indicted in Mahoning County related to alleged illegal activity in trying to stop the county’s purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former Southside Medical Center. In July 2011, all criminal charges were dropped. On May 14, 2014, McNally, Sciortino and Yavorcik were indicted in Cuyahoga County. McNally, then Youngstown mayor, and Sciortino took plea agreements while Yavorcik was convicted in March 2016 of eight felonies with an appeals court overturning them contending Cuyahoga County was the wrong place to have Yavorcik’s trial.