Search of Judge Belinky’s home yields more documents (OH)

Authorities seized two computer towers, 39 CDs and DVDs, financial documents, campaign materials and an airline boarding pass during a search of Mahoning County Probate Judge Mark Belinky’s home.

The seizures came during a Friday afternoon search of the judge’s Windsor Road residence, which was conducted by Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and FBI agents and sheriff’s deputies, while other agents from those offices were searching probate court offices in the county courthouse in Youngstown.

In its requests for both search warrants, BCI said it was looking for evidence of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with records, bribery, money laundering, theft and theft in office.

The affidavits in support of the search warrants were sealed by Judge Elizabeth A. Kobly of Youngstown Municipal Court, who issued the warrant for the probate court office search, and by Judge Joseph M. Houser of the county court in Boardman, who issued the warrant to search Judge Belinky’s home.

“The affidavit contains information which could compromise an ongoing investigation, if released, and which could identify uncharged suspects,” wrote Edward Carlini, BCI agent, in his request that Judge Houser seal the affidavit for the Boardman search.

Judge Belinky, who admitted the agents to his residence, has not been charged with any crime.

Judge Houser sealed the affidavit “for 90 days or until further order of the court.”

The home search-and-seizure inventory, filed in the Boardman court early Tuesday, said the United Airlines boarding pass and ticket taken from a second-floor bedroom closet were dated Jan. 20, 2014, but it did not identify the origin and destination of the trip for which the ticket was purchased, or who purchased it.

Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, of which BCI is a part, declined to comment on the boarding pass and ticket.

The affidavit detailing why the search was requested also was kept sealed. Tierney said BCI agents requested that it be kept sealed because of the nature of the investigation, which he said is a common practice during ongoing probes.

Other items seized from Judge Belinky’s home included a CD labeled “Judge Belinky spots,” an audiocassette with handwriting, a Home Savings and Loan Co. deposit slip, miscellaneous financial documents with account numbers, and a gavel-shaped campaign souvenir pencil found in a kitchen pencil cup.

Agents served the home search warrant at 3:15 p.m. Friday, and they provided a copy of the warrant and inventory of items seized to Atty. J. Gerald Ingram, who represents Judge Belinky. Ingram declined to comment on the case Tuesday.

Judge Belinky, who said Monday he was cooperating with the investigation, declined to comment further Tuesday.

Sheriff Jerry Greene deferred comment to the attorney general’s office.

In the probate court search, carried out at the same time as the home search, agents seized bank records, campaign finance reports, lists of campaign donors, computers and electronic media.

Judge Belinky was appointed in 2007 by former Gov. Ted Strickland to replace Judge Timothy Maloney, who retired.

The next year, Judge Belinky retained his seat by defeating Atty. Susan Maruca and Judge James Lanzo of Struthers Municipal Court in the Democratic primary and then defeating his Republican opponent, Judge Scott Hunter, in the general election.

In this year’s May 6 Democratic primary, Judge Belinky is being challenged by Maruca and Atty. Chris Sammarone.

The county Democratic Party’s central and executive committees will meet at 11 a.m. Feb. 22 in St. Luke’s Banquet Hall in Boardman to consider endorsements in legislative, countywide and judicial races.


Search of Judge Belinky’s home yields more documents
Peter H. Milliken/Joe Gorman
February 12, 2014

Additional coverage:

Judge Belinky’s home, court searched
Joe Gorman
February 8, 2014

Agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation with help from the FBI and the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office searched the county probate court Friday afternoon as well as the home of Probate Judge Mark Belinky.

Judge Belinky, who earlier this week filed to run for re-election, would not comment other than to read a brief statement that said: “On the advice of counsel, I will only say that since my election I have faithfully discharged my duties as judge of the Mahoning County Probate Court.”

Jill Del Greco, a spokeswoman for BCI, said that agency is leading the investigation and that the FBI and sheriff’s office are assisting. She would not say what agents were searching for, only that they served warrants Friday afternoon at the probate court as well as Judge Belinky’s Windsor Road home in Boardman.

She said agents seized documents and electronic evidence such as computers.

Sheriff Jerry Greene also would not say what agents were looking for. He said they spent about two hours at the court.

Vicki Anderson, a spokesman for the Cleveland office of the FBI, referred any questions to BCI.

David Betras, county Democratic Party chairman, said he wants to see the legal process play itself out.

“I have faith in the court system. I have faith in BCI and the FBI, and I have faith in the voters,” said Betras, who also is a lawyer. “This will play out in their respective areas.”

Judge Belinky has battled tax problems in the past. In 2011, the IRS placed a lien on his home for owing $32,000 in income taxes from 2008 and 2009.

Judge Belinky and his wife were put on a payment plan to pay the taxes. The judge said then that the tax problems were caused because of income he earned when he closed out his private law practice, where he was self-employed at the same time he began his career on the bench.

Judge Belinky also had his paycheck garnished last year because of $20,000 he owed on a loan from 2008 plus more than $7,000 interest.

As probate judge, he makes about $105,000 annually.

Judge Belinky was appointed to the court in 2007 by former Gov. Ted Strickland to replace Judge Timothy Maloney, who retired. In 2008, Judge Belinky won re-election, beating Struthers Municipal Court Judge James Lanzo and Atty. Susan Maruca in the Democratic primary and then defeating Mahoning County Judge Scott Hunter in the general election.

In this year’s primary, Judge Belinky faces a challenge from Maruca again as well as Atty. Chris Sammarone.

In 1993, Belinky’s father, former Mahoning County Coroner Nathan Belinky, received a six-month jail sentence, with 150 of those days to be served on house arrest and 30 days to be served at Community Corrections Association, after he pleaded guilty to charges he sold drugs.

He faced similar charges in Trumbull County. The charges forced him to give up his position as coroner. He received an early release from his house arrest to care for his ailing wife. He died in November 1999.