Former mayor of Niles indicted on 56 charges

The indictment alleges that as mayor, Ralph Infante accepted bribes and operated an illegal gambling business

Ralph Infante, who served as Niles mayor from 1992 to 2016, was indicted on 56 charges.

WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) — A Trumbull County grand jury has issued indictments against the former mayor of Niles and associates related to public corruption and illegal gambling operations.

Ralph Infante, who served as Niles mayor from 1992 to 2016, was indicted on 56 charges. The 41-page indictment details allegations of bribery, theft in office, misuse of city property and gambling.

The charges against him include:

  • 17 counts of tampering with records
  • Two counts of gambling
  • Two counts of operating a gambling house
  • Two counts of possessing criminal tools
  • 10 counts of soliciting improper compensation
  • Two counts of theft in office
  • One count of having an unlawful interest in a public contract
  • Four counts of bribery
  • One count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity
  • Seven counts of filing a false disclosure statement
  • One count of obstruction of justice
  • Five counts of money laundering
  • One count of theft
  • One count of falsification

READ: Complete indictment

The bribery charges center on two incidents in which Infante is accused of accepting $500 to $1,000 for hiring a person to work with the City of Niles. Another involves a contractor who performed $7,000 to $8,000 of work on his property and instead of paying for it, Infante hired a friend of the contractor to work for the city.

The indictment also alleges that Infante operated an illegal gambling enterprise out of the business he owns, ITAM 39 on Route 422 in Girard. Investigators say Infante received nearly $200,000 in unreported cash, income and gifts.

The ITAM Club had slot machines and games of chance that, for almost 30 years, Infante profited from money bets on sports, according to the indictment. The document also claims that Infante and/or ITAM 39 failed to withhold taxes of employees.

ITAM 39 was indicted on the following counts:

  • One count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity
  • Two counts of gambling
  • Two counts of operating a gambling house
  • Two counts of possessing criminal tools

Other charges include Infante’s spearheading the waiving of $40,000 in building fees for a local company, failure to report NCAA Championship tickets gifted by a businessman and instructing a witness to provide false information about money paid to Infante.

Infante was smiling Tuesday evening and said he’s not concerned about the charges. He said he asked for this investigation a year ago and wants to see, specifically, what the charges are.

The case was investigated by the Ohio Auditor of State’s Office with assistance from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The charges are being prosecuted by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office Special Prosecutions Section.

The case has been assigned to Visiting Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove of Summit County.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued the following statement after the indictments:

Today’s indictment and the investigation regarding the City of Niles are the latest efforts my office has undertaken to help fight corruption in the Mahoning Valley. The Oakhill investigation has been completed, yielding significant successes, including guilty pleas and guilty verdicts for high-ranking county officials, candidates, and judges. While some matters like Oakhill are now done (and we anticipate no further indictments in Oakhill), we will continue to help local governments, when requested, investigate and prosecute wrongdoing, just like we have done in Niles and elsewhere around Ohio.”

No one on Niles City Council wanted to comment on the indictments Tuesday evening. Mayor Tom Scarnecchia also refused to comment.

“I don’t know anything about them,” he said. “I really have no comment on them.”

The indictment also alleges that Judy Infante assisted her husband in tampering with records. She is charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft and nine counts of tampering with records.

Additionally, it claims that City of Niles employee Scott Shaffer sold city property for cash without returning such funds to the city auditor, and used city property and equipment for personal reasons for over a decade. He is charged with two counts of theft in office.

The indictments come a little over 10 months after the raid of Infante’s house and ITAM 39 on February 1.  Boxes of documents were taken from the house at that time, documents which most likely were used in the indictments handed up on Tuesday.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story listed one extra charge against Infante. He faces 56 charges, and the list of charges against him has been updated. 

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