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Published Wednesday, October 13, 1999,
in the Akron Beacon Journal.


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Payments come to light

Eastern Ohio air inspectors admit selling `expertise' to a lobbyist in Ohio River Valley corruption case

Beacon Journal staff writer

Two Eastern Ohio air inspectors convicted last week of using their positions with an EPA-funded agency to extract $169,750 from a landfill owner also sold their EPA ``expertise'' to a Columbus lobbyist, according to documents filed in the case.

They took money to help the lobbyist get ``more favorable air regulation'' by the Ohio EPA and the North Ohio Valley Air Authority, according to their plea agreements.

Former NOVAA director Pasquale ``Patsy'' DeLuca and former NOVAA air inspector Vincent Zumpano received $12,000 from the unnamed lobbyist in 1994 and 1995, the plea documents said.

Although the lobbyist is not named, the description and timing of the payments detailed in the plea documents closely match payments reported in the Akron Beacon Journal in 1997 by Michael Anthony Fabiano, a lobbyist for the Waste Technologies Industries hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool.

As with the $169,750 paid by landfill owner Robert Steven Vukelic, the $12,000 was funneled through DeLuca's son, Ron -- who also pleaded guilty to federal charges Friday.

The lobbyist paid the younger DeLuca for consulting work he never performed, the plea agreement said.

According to a series of checks obtained by the Beacon Journal in 1997, Ron DeLuca received at least $10,000 from Fabiano between October 1994 and May 1995 in checks for ``consulting work.''

The checks came as WTI was engaged in a bitter regulatory battle with both NOVAA and the state EPA, and followed a series of 1994 meetings between WTI, Fabiano, the elder DeLuca, Zumpano and officials from the V Group -- a company owned by U.S. Sen. George Voinovich's younger brother Paul.

WTI officials have said those meetings were arranged by Fabiano to facilitate communication between the NOVAA employees and WTI.

V Group officials have called the meetings private business.

The plea deals filed last week in Cincinnati mark the first charges and first guilty pleas in what has been a three-year federal investigation of alleged kickbacks and corruption in the Ohio River Valley -- and of a web of relationships surrounding Paul Voinovich.

Federal authorities have subpoenaed state documents related to Zumpano, DeLuca, Fabiano, WTI, Vukelic, Paul Voinovich and two former V Group vice presidents.

The plea agreements filed Friday -- which became available this week -- said Zumpano and DeLuca also collected pay from the Pine Hollow landfill's previous owner, Paul Hatcher, in exchange for their help with state permits.

After Hatcher died, the documents said, Zumpano, DeLuca and a third man, Steubenville Democratic party official Richard Canestrero, devised a plan to get $330,000 from Vukelic.

According to the plea agreements, half of the money was to go to an unnamed consultant.

The three partners never got the entire $330,000 because Vukelic backed out early. The unnamed consultant didn't get the promised 50 percent, either, the documents said, because the partners claimed bogus expenses before splitting the take.

So who was the 50-percent consultant?

Zumpano, in depositions taken early this year, said the Vukelic money traveled through Ron DeLuca's Foggia to former V Group vice president Clark Miller.

Vukelic said yesterday that's news to him, that he had believed the consultant was T.K. Engineering of Willoughby Hills. The company, which has worked with the V Group, could not be reached.

Vukelic said T.K. Engineering began billing him because it wasn't getting its money from Foggia.

``I hardly know Clark Miller,'' he said.

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