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Investigation of Zumpano is widened;
Probe of man linked to Governor's brother spreads to Columbus

 

June 20, 1997

Margaret Newkirk, Dennis Willard
Akron Beacon Journal

A federal investigation of Vincent Zumpano, the man now in jail for trying to bribe a public official on behalf of Gov. George Voinovich's brother, Paul, has expanded to Columbus.

Agents from the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation subpoenaed records on May 7 from the office of Columbus lobbyist Tony Fabiano as part of the probe, according to federal and other sources.

Investigators appear to be looking into a web of relationships involving Zumpano, who worked as an air quality inspector at the North Ohio Valley Air Authority in Steubenville.

NOVAA, under former director Pat "Patsy" DeLuca, was the target of a special audit by state Auditor Jim Petro this spring that detailed questionable spending practices and raised concerns about possible conflicts of interest involving agency employees and the companies they regulated.

Sources said they have subpoenaed records and information pertaining to any financial or other relationship Fabiano might have had with Zumpano, DeLuca and Waste Technologies Industries.

Until January, Fabiano was registered as a lobbyist for WTI, the controversial hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool that received its final operating permit from the state last month.

Federal investigators also sought records pertaining to any relationships between Fabiano and Paul Voinovich, his V Group jail construction management company and Frank Fela, a V Group vice president.

Neither Fabiano nor his attorney, Patrick Hanley, returned calls for comment. Zumpano's attorney, John Vavra, said he was aware of no investigation of his client, although he said he is aware that federal investigators wanted to talk to him.

WTI and the V Group are not specifically targets of the probe at this time, one federal source said. Representatives of both companies said they also had no knowledge of any investigation.

Fabiano has also lobbied for the Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council, Reserve Environmental Services of Ashtabula and Metropane Inc., a Columbus energy company.

The federal investigation appears to have been under way since at least last fall, when investigators from the IRS, the FBI, the State Highway Patrol, the U.S. EPA and the state auditor's office, met at the state auditor's regional office in Niles in November.

David Hanna, senior supervisor of the Columbus FBI, declined comment. "A federal grand jury is involved," he said. "I'm not denying it. I just can't comment on any investigation."

Craig Clinton, a criminal investigator from the U.S. EPA in Chicago, also said he could not comment about the case because "that's a grand jury investigation."

V Group spokesman David Hopcraft said he would not comment on what relationship, if any, the V Group or its officers had or has with Fabiano. WTI spokesman Raymond Wayne said he had no knowledge of any investigation.

DeLuca confirmed that he had been subpoenaed by the IRS but had refused to talk to investigators. The subpoena, he said, was later cancelled.

He also said that his son, Ron DeLuca, was interviewed by the Justice Department and the IRS for seven hours recently. He said the interview focused heavily on his son's relationship with Fabiano.

Helped with paperwork

The elder DeLuca said he worked with Fabiano on paperwork related to WTI while he was director of NOVAA.

The company was late on some reports, he said, and DeLuca was helping Fabiano get the reports together.

"He called my office," he said. "I was down there five or six times. And met with him four or five times. It was all WTI."

DeLuca also confirmed that his son was on Fabiano's payroll for about six months. The younger DeLuca, who runs a business that finds clients for landfills, was being paid by Fabiano "on a finder's-fee basis" to help on a landfill project in Athens County.

That transaction had nothing to do with WTI, DeLuca said. DeLuca said investigators asked him whether any of the money paid to his son found its way to either him or to Zumpano. He said it did not.

Ron DeLuca did not return calls for comment.

Possible connections between Zumpano and Fabiano have also drawn the attention of Jefferson County Prosecutor Stephen Stern.

In a deposition made public last week, Stern asked Zumpano to explain 93 phone calls made from NOVAA offices to Fabiano over a 10-month period in 1994 and 1995.

Zumpano said he knew Fabiano because the lobbyist attended annual golf outings that Zumpano coordinated in Steubenville for former U.S. Rep. Doug Applegate, D-Steubenville, as well as other Democratic functions in the area.

Zumpano would not confirm that he had called Fabiano, or how many times. He said he could not remember. "I could have called a lot of people," Zumpano said.

Asked whether he had ever received any money from Fabiano, Zumpano said no, other than money received when Fabiano attended one of his golf outings.

Calls not explained

WTI spokesman Wayne, asked in early May about the calls from NOVAA to Fabiano, said he had no idea why anyone from the agency would have been calling WTI's lobbyist.

Richard Canestrero, NOVAA's current director, also said he did not understand the calls. He said no one from his office would have any reason to call Fabiano.

Exactly what the connection might be between Fabiano and the V Group, Voinovich and Fela is unclear, though Fabiano and Voinovich did team up on a business deal in 1993.

The deal involved a 311-foot statue of Christopher Columbus, sculpted by a Russian sculptor named Zurab Tsereteli.

Fabiano, who was working with a group of citizen advocates to bring the statue to Columbus, brought the V Group in as a consulting engineer, according to Jane Butler, who headed the statue-advocate group.

Fabiano and Fela traveled to Moscow together in the fall of 1993, along with representatives of the citizens group. While there, Fabiano and Fela convinced the sculptor to consider bringing the statue to Cleveland instead of Columbus.

The project died because Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White was not interested.

A relationship between Zumpano and Voinovich was revealed during the investigation into the attempted bribery charges on which Zumpano was convicted in April.

500 calls in two years

NOVAA phone records showed more than 500 calls in two years coming from NOVAA, from the Jefferson County Board of Elections, where Zumpano also worked, and from Zumpano's home to either the V Group's Cleveland headquarters, its former lobbyist in Columbus, Phil Hamilton, or Paul Voinovich's home.

In the deposition filed in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court last week, Zumpano said he did not remember how many of those calls were made by him and how many were made by DeLuca or other NOVAA employees.

Zumpano could remember the circumstances behind only six of those calls. He said he was calling Voinovich on behalf of friends who wanted favors from state governent.