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Feature Articles


February 2001

In The Money: Congressman James Traficant And His Campaign Contributors

By James Ridgway de Szigethy


     Convicted associates of the Pittsburgh Mafia Family, Mafia-corrupted labor Unions and Middle Eastern political operatives are among those who have contributed to the past two re-election campaigns of Congressman James Traficant, an analysis of Federal Election Commission records reveals. These records, which are required filings under Federal Election law, reveal 219 donations by individuals and 212 donations by Unions and Political Action Committees. 47 of the personal contributions came from outside the State of Ohio, with 35 of those from the State of Virginia. 38 are from individuals that indicate a Middle Eastern background of the contributor.

     Among the contributors whose names would probably be recognized by most Youngstown residents are Ed Flask, Mark Colucci, David Sugar, Anthony Saadey, Russell Saadey, Jr., Sam Traficanti, and fireworks businessmen Bruce Zoldan and Gerald Bostocky.

     Among the contributors whose names would probably NOT be recognized by most Youngstown residents are Virginia residents Ali Asghar Abbaszadeh, Reza Bulochi, Massud Mirmohammaoi, Ramesh Sepehrrad, and Javad Vaziri, Samir Mohammad, Ammar Shafai, and Homayoun Nasser Sharif, Georgia resident Hossein Shamsai, Massachusetts residents Mahaz Nasseri and Hessein Sadeghpour, Kansas City’s Sajadi Sacid, Maryland’s Cyrus Samet and Mahmoud Tabassi, and San Diego’s Mohammad Bigdeli.

     Russell Saadey Jr., a former investigator for the District Attorney’s office in Youngstown, was indicted last December on charges he bribed Judges to fix Court cases.

     Ed Flask accepted a plea bargain last year in which he pleaded guilty to felony charges in regards to his rip-off of nearly $2 million while running the public water utility in Youngstown. Flask first received notoriety during the 1983 Federal bribery trial of then-Sheriff James Traficant, when it was revealed that Cleveland Mafia associate Charlie "The Crab" Carabbia had secretly tape recorded Traficant bragging about how he laundered through Flask’s law office part of the $163,000 in bribe money he accepted from the Mafia. Those same tapes revealed that Carabbia was blackmailing Flask with "compromising photographs of Flask which would ensure his silence!" Just days later, Carabbia was abducted and murdered.

     B & T Express employee Sam Traficanti was present during some of the secret tape -recorded meetings between the Carabbia brothers and Sheriff-elect Traficant, but was not charged. Two of Traficanti’s fellow employees at B & T Express also donated to Traficant’s campaign records show. Traficanti is not related to Congressman Traficant. Last September, the Congressman’s employee Anthony Traficanti was subpoenaed by the Federal Grand Jury in Cleveland.

     Congressman Traficant has also received campaign contributions from Youngstown resident Walter Terlecki. In recent months, Congressman Traficant has entered into the Congressional Record sworn affidavits by Michael "Beef" Terlecky, a former Mahoning County Deputy Sheriff who was convicted of taking bribes from the Mafia. Terlecky now claims that he was set up by some of the same authorities that are now involved in the investigation of Congressman Traficant, including two public figures who attended an anti-Mafia summit meeting recently in Palermo, Sicily. The Congressman has denied a request by the chairman of the Mahoning County Board of Elections who is seeking information the Congressman claims to have regarding Mafia bribes to the campaigns of elected officials in Youngstown.

     Terlecky also claims that it was he who found the infamous Carabbia tapes months before the FBI during an illegal search and seizure regarding an investigation into the murder of yet another Youngstown Mafia figure, Joe DeRose. However, conversations on the Carabbia tapes that include remarks made by Sam Traficanti clearly indicate that the tapes were recorded months later than Terlecky’s claims, when Traficant had just been elected Sheriff.

     Congressman Traficant is also now claiming that an FBI agent in Youngstown was taking bribes from the Mafia 38 years ago in 1962.

     During the 1999 Federal bribery trial of Youngstown Sheriff Philip Chance fireworks distributor Bruce Zoldan testified that Chance shook him down for ‘tribute money’ to Pittsburgh Mafia figure Lenny Strollo. Zoldan’s first run-in with Chance was in 1983, when Sheriff Traficant and his Deputy Chance raided Zoldan’s fireworks business two days before their busiest moneymaking period, the Fourth of July. Zoldan would also testify that the Gambino Family led by John Gotti extorted a huge sum of money from him in order to do business in New York. The murder of Mafia figure Joey Naples, who was among those who contributed to the $163,000 bribe to Traficant, is believed to be a result of the fight for control of the fireworks business.

     David Sugar pleaded guilty last year to Obstruction of Justice charges in regards to his attempts to conceal evidence from the Grand Jury in Cleveland investigating financial dealings between Sugar, his construction company, and Congressman Traficant. Sugar is expected to testify against Traficant at any future criminal proceedings, as is Traficant’s former employee on his horse farm, Clarence Broad. In November of last year, Broad pleaded guilty to charges he tried to hire a hitman to murder a woman who was expected to give damaging testimony against Traficant before the Grand Jury in Cleveland. Criminal attorney Mark Colucci, who also is among those who have given money to Traficant’s campaign, responded by alleging in Federal Court that Prosecutor Craig Morford had used coercion to force Broad to plead guilty. Judge Donald Nugent was not impressed with Colucci’s unsubstantiated claims and threatened to cite Colucci for Contempt of Court.

     In 1998 and 2000 Traficant accepted donations from controversial activist James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute. Zogby was recently in the news last October, when his appointment as an Advisor to the Al Gore campaign sparked outrage worldwide among supporters of Israel. The Jerusalem Post quoted terrorism expert Steven Emerson: "Zogby has not only made comments that are incendiary but he has also made comments that are anti-Semitic!" "(Zogby has) openly supported the Hizbullah!" Emerson is renown for his investigation of the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in December, 1988, killing 270 people, including 35 Syracuse University students.

     On June 29, 1993, Senator John McCain entered into the Congressional Record a public challenge to the FBI and the Justice Department to share information on the People’s Mujahidin Organization of Iran, a suspected terrorist organization that was involved in a clandestine effort to influence public policy through an organized campaign of directing contributions to the campaigns of selected members of Congress. Said the Senator: "Given the charges made in a previous FBI report that the PMOI has a history of terrorism, an anti-Western ideology, and ties to the regime of Saddam Hussein, this should be a matter of concern to all Members."

     In 1997 The Iran Report, a publication of the Middle East Data Project, identified four members of Congress as recipients of campaign donations from alleged associates of the PMOI. Those four were Robert Torricelli of New Jersey, Gary Ackerman of New York, Dan Burton of Indiana and James Traficant of Ohio. To date, none of these individuals have been charged with making illegal campaign contributions. However, Senator Torricelli is currently in the news defending himself against a Chinese fundraiser named David Chang, who has pleaded guilty to illegally contributing $53,000 to Torricelli’s 1996 campaign. Numerous recent Media reports show that the Feds are now nearing the conclusion of an investigation that began with reports of impropriety regarding contributions to Torricelli’s 1996 campaign.

     Congressman Traficant has developed a huge following in the Arab and Muslim countries in the Middle East because of his passionate public support for accused terrorists Abdel Basset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, indicted for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, and former auto worker John Demjanjuk, who was placed on trial in Israel on charges he was "Ivan the Terrible," a Nazi concentration camp guard responsible for the murders of thousands of Jews during World War II. Demjanjuk was convicted and sentenced to death, although the Israeli Supreme Court later reversed his conviction. Congressman Traficant then flew to Israel to personally escort the accused murderer back to the United States.

     In the case of the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, Traficant first went public in this matter at a press conference in 1989, at which he claimed that the bombing was the result of a joint Syrian/CIA operation. ABC News London correspondent Pierre Salinger then picked up the story, utilizing Traficant, government informant Lester Coleman, and private investigator Juval Aviv as his sources. Coleman later pleaded guilty to Perjury charges and admitted his Pan Am/CIA story was a hoax. Juval Aviv was placed on trial in 1996 in Manhattan on Federal fraud charges unrelated to the Pan Am case. He was acquitted.

     Upon Aviv's indictment Congressman Traficant found a replacement in Boris de Korczak as his lead researcher in his quest to prove his Pan Am 103 theory. Boris is best known for the lawsuit he filed in 1996 against the CIA in which he claimed he had been recruited by the CIA as a double agent against the KGB, that his ‘cover’ had been blown by a drunken U. S. official which resulted in a shoot-out with the KGB during a car chase through the streets of Copenhagen, and that his CIA case Officer extorted from him a bribe of Russian Medieval icons worth $300,000 in exchange for the promise of help in obtaining the pension he claimed was owed him. Boris claims he turned over the bribe, only to be shot in the kidney 4 months later by an unknown assailant armed with a pellet gun. The CIA denied Boris' claims he was owed monetary compensation and also denied any of its employees shot Boris with a pellet gun. Boris' lawsuit was dismissed and the decision was upheld on Appeal.

     Despite the efforts of Traficant and his associates to prove their conspiracy theory, Abdel Basset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi was recently convicted as the terrorist who planted the bomb that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103. Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah was acquitted.

     In addition to receiving campaign money from convicted Mafia figures and Middle Eastern political operatives, FEC documents also detail contributions made to Traficant’s campaign from Unions that have been involved in corruption scandals in recent years. Those Unions include the American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees, the Communications Workers of America, the Transport Workers Union, and the UFCW.

     Traficant has also received donations from the Italian-American Democratic Leadership Council, the Al Gore for President campaign, and the National Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education.

     Ironic is the $12,000 donated to Traficant by the Association of Trial Lawyers, as Traficant is one of the few people without a law degree to have ever beaten a Federal racketeering trial by acting as his own attorney. When Sheriff Traficant was arrested by the FBI in 1982, he signed a confession after agents played for him excerpts from the Carabbia tapes. Traficant then hired one of the best attorneys in the business, Carmen Policy, Ed Flask’s partner, who is today the President of the Cleveland Browns professional football team. However, after Traficant went public with charges that just about every public official in Youngstown was involved with the Mafia, Policy dumped Traficant as his client. Traficant then made a bold – and some would say insane – decision to renounce his confession and stand trial, acting as his own attorney. Traficant explained to the jury that he only accepted the Mafia bribe money so he would know whom to arrest for corruption once elected Sheriff. After four days of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict that stunned the Prosecutors and journalists that covered the trial; Not Guilty. Traficant then turned the publicity over his acquittal to his advantage and was elected to Congress in 1984. However, three years later he was again in Court, facing civil charges that he owed taxes on the $163,000 in Mafia bribes. Representing him was attorney George Alexander, who has since been convicted of racketeering with the Mafia. As in the O. J. Simpson case, Traficant was convicted in his civil trial and ordered to pay back taxes, fines, and interest.

     For many months now, Traficant has been predicting during public appearances that he expects to be indicted - again - by the Federal authorities in Cleveland who have to date convicted over 70 public officials, many of whom are associates of the Pittsburgh Mafia Family.

James Ridgway de Szigethy can be reached at JAMESDE@prodigy.net.


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