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Ohio landfill owner is latest charged in growing state corruption scandal

Thursday, March 02, 2000

By SANDY THEIS

and TED WENDLING
PLAIN DEALER BUREAU

COLUMBUS - A federal grand jury indicted Steubenville landfill owner Robert Vukelic on 37 criminal counts yesterday, accusing him of paying $169,750 to officials who helped him illegally obtain and expand demolition permits from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Vukelic is the latest person to be indicted in a wide-ranging public corruption scandal being investigated by the FBI, IRS and federal EPA.

Vukelic could not be reached for comment. He is scheduled to enter a plea to the charges on March 23.

Vukelic received his EPA permit when the agency had a moratorium on such permits.

The indictment names no EPA officials, but it documents multiple instances in which the usually plodding agency responded to Vukelic with remarkable speed.

"The charges against Vukelic are related to those against Patsy J. DeLuca, Vincent R. Zumpano and Ronald DeLuca, all of whom have already pled guilty to being involved in the unlawful payments Vukelic is charged with making," according to a statement issued yesterday afternoon by Sharon Zealey, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.

At the time, Patsy DeLuca and Zumpano were employees of the North Ohio Valley Air Authority. The agency, before it folded in 1997, regulated air quality in six counties in east-central Ohio.

Yesterdayís indictment does not say what the money was paid for or whether anyone at the EPA received any money.

Rather than pay the money directly to North Ohio Valley Air Authority employees, who regulated his landfill, Vukelic disguised the payments by sending them to a firm called Foggia Co., according to the indictment. Foggia then paid Zumpano, the DeLucas and an unnamed "purported subconsultant." The indictment lists this subconsultant as "a person known to the grand jury," but offers no other clues to the personís identity.

During a sworn statement taken in a related civil case, Zumpano identified the DeLucas as having received money, but he also identified Cleveland architect Paul Voinovich and former top Voinovich executive Clark Miller as having also received money. Voinovich is the brother of Sen. George V. Voinovich.

In his deposition, Zumpano said Foggia sent checks directly to Miller. He identified the checks as "a tipping fee" based on the amount of debris dumped in Vukelicís landfill.

Federal Prosecutor Kathy Brinkman, who has been spearheading the case, would neither comment on the unnamed person nor say whether Paul Voinovich or Miller received any payments from Foggia.

In addition to charges of making unlawful payments to a public official, Vukelic faces charges of money laundering, conspiracy and asbestos violations.

©2000 THE PLAIN DEALER. Used with permission.


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