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Published Thursday, March 2, 2000,
in the Akron Beacon Journal.

  

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Grand jury indicts owner of landfill

Charges stem from investigation of relationships surrounding Paul Voinovich and alleged kickbacks

BY MARGARET NEWKIRK
Beacon Journal staff writer

A Steubenville landfill owner was charged in Cincinnati yesterday with 37 counts of conspiracy, money laundering and unlawfully paying off public officials.

The charges against Robert Steven Vukelic are the latest to come out of a now almost 4-year-old federal grand jury investigation of a web of relationships surrounding Paul Voinovich and of alleged kickbacks in exchange for favors from environmental regulators.

Voinovich is the brother of U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, who was Ohio governor at the time of the alleged crimes.

Vukelic, whose resume includes demolition work related to Akron's Canal Park, is accused of paying off two employees and a board member of an eastern Ohio air agency, in exchange for their ``advice'' on a series of state EPA permits for Vukelic's Pine Hollow landfill.

The air inspectors then paid more than 50 percent of their earnings to a subconsultant -- identified by federal sources as Clark V. Miller, then a vice president of Voinovich's V Group.

From 1994 to 1996, Vukelic paid $169,750 to Foggia, a partnership formed by North Ohio Valley Air Authority Director Pasquale ``Patsy'' DeLuca, NOVAA inspector Vincent Zumpano and NOVAA board member Richard Canestrero, and controlled by DeLuca's son, Ron.

Zumpano and the two DeLuca men pleaded guilty to conspiracy and public corruption charges last fall. They have yet to be sentenced.

Another key figure in the investigation, Columbus lobbyist Michael Anthony Fabiano, was given probation for his role in a related corruption scheme.

Fabiano, a former lobbyist for the Waste Technologies Industries hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, made payments to the younger DeLuca at a time when WTI was having regulatory troubles with both NOVAA and the state EPA.

Zumpano has said in depositions that the relationship was engineered by Paul Voinovich and former V Group Vice President Frank Fela.

Fabiano pleaded guilty only to a tax offense; he listed the payments to DeLuca as a legitimate business expense.

The allegations involving Pine Hollow apparently began even before Vukelic owned the landfill.

In a statement of allegations included with the indictment, prosecutors said the elder DeLuca prepared a contract with the landfill's previous owner, Paul Hatcher, in November 1993.

The contract, drafted the day after Hatcher received an unusual state temporary dumping permit, said Hatcher would pay Foggia $2 per ton for the life of the landfill. Hatcher died the next month.

DeLuca and Zumpano drafted a new contract with Vukelic the following April. It called for Vukelic to pay Foggia and its subconsultant $330,000 in exchange for state permits.

Vukelic bought the landfill from Hatcher's estate a few months later and began paying on the contract.

He had paid $169,750 by the end of 1996, when he apparently backed out of the deal.

The subconsultant was to receive 50 percent of the money Vukelic paid to Foggia. According to the indictment, the subconsultant received $93,250 from Foggia between 1994 and 1996 -- more than half of the money Vukelic paid to Foggia in exchange for the landfill permit.

The sum does not include $1,750 that Vukelic paid the subconsultant directly.

Margaret Newkirk can be reached at 330-996-3792 or by e-mail at
mnewkirk@thebeaconjournal.com


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