Attorneys, store owner charged with planning extortion

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A feud between two convenience store owners in Youngstown has turned into a tale of extortion, threats and conspiracy involving two local attorneys.

A six-count indictment was filed Tuesday charging three Youngstown-area men with Hobbs Act conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct justice, making false statements and related charges, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen  D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cleveland Office.

Indicted are Attorney Neal Atway, 47, of Youngstown; Attorney Scott Cochran, 43, of Austintown, and Mohd Rawhneh, 54, of Boardman.

Rawhneh, with the assistance of Atway and Cochran, obtained and attempted to obtain things of value from Charles B. Muth, who owns several convenience stores in the Youngstown area.

According to the indictment, Muth was facing sentencing in 2012 for a Dec. 28, 2011 incident where he went to Rawhneh’s house and fired shots into the residence. Rawhneh wasn’t home at the time, but his ex-wife was in the house.

State and federal charges were filed against Muth and he retained Atway as his legal counsel.

Through several court proceedings, Muth agreed to a plea deal and pleaded guilty in federal court on aggravated menacing, ethnic intimidation and illegal manufacture of drugs. While awaiting sentencing in the federal case, the indictment alleges that through Atway and Cochran, Rawhneh attempted to extort $50,000 from Muth in property, goods, and cash.

Rawhneh threatened Muth that he would appear at Muth’s sentencing, which would influence the judge to impose a tougher sentence. But the intimidation didn’t stop there. According to the indictment, Muth said he was intimidated by Rawhneh several times through Atway and Cochran between April and November 2012, including an incident where Rawhneh allegedly pulled up beside Muth and formed his hand into a gun and pointed it at him. Muth also expressed his fear to Atway by saying, “I don’t want to (expletive) die.”

At one point Atway responded to Rawhneh’s concerns by saying, “You don’t want to die then you know what you got to do is make peace with everybody. If you make peace with him, I’ll make sure he doesn’t show up in federal court.”

Atway on several occasions tried to convince Muth to offer payments to Rawhneh in the amounts of $8,000, $20,000 and $25,000, according to the indictment.

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