YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A Mahoning County judge is facing federal charges, accused of stealing at least $96,200 from a former client. The accusation is a violation of public trust but the money was also left in someone else’s will — to benefit two animal advocate groups.
Tuesday, the Supreme Court of Ohio disqualified 49-year-old Diane Vettori-Caraballo, of Youngstown, as a judge while her case is pending.
She was charged with one count of fraud, one count of structuring cash deposits and one count of making false statements to law enforcement.
Vettori-Caraballo stole between $96,200 and $328,000 in cash that was in the home of client Dolores Falgiani after Falgiani died in March of 2016, according to investigators.
“Anytime an attorney steals client funds, that’s unacceptable. Attornies have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients and in a case where you have an elected official do this, it certainly violates the public’s trust,” said U.S. Attorney Brian McDonough.
Investigators said Vettori-Caraballo drafted the will for Dolores Falgiani’s brother in 2015 but reported that he didn’t have a will. Falgiani was appointed an administrator of her brother’s estate and Vettori-Caraballo helped her to close the man’s safe deposit boxes.
The will made 16 bequests to relatives and friends, including Animal Charity in Boardman and Angels for Animals in Canfield.
At some point, investigators allege that Falgiani told Vettori-Caraballo about shoe boxes of cash she had stored in her home.
Vettori-Caraballo reported finding $20,000 cash in Falgiani’s home and depositing it into the estate. The government says she structured 22 deposits of cash she stole into five banks to avoid it being reported to the IRS. She told investigators that the money came from her father’s estate, according to court records.
“She’s being charged and they’re serious charges involved in taking money from clients, and then depositing those stolen monies and then lying about the deposits to law enforcement themselves,” McDonough said.
The bill of information outlines 33 allegations against what Vettori-Caraballo was doing, saying she devised and intended to defraud the Mahoning County Probate Court but then denied having “received a nickel” from the woman’s estate to investigators.
“A public official owes the community the highest level of integrity and honesty in all things,” McDonough said.
Vettori-Caraballo was elected to the position of judge in Mahoning County Court #3 – Sebring Court — in 2002. She serves over misdemeanor criminal and traffic charges for Sebring and Beloit villages and Berlin, Green, Goshen, Ellsworth, Smith and Washingtonville townships.
She was reelected in 2006 and 2012.
Vettori-Caraballo is due in a Cleveland courtroom at 2 p.m. on January 17.