Indictment of Leetonia tax auditor linked to probe of local atto - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Indictment of Leetonia tax auditor linked to probe of local attorneys

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Federal authorities accuse a former Ohio Department of  Taxation employee from Columbiana County of conspiring with a Boardman businessman to cheat the state out of tax revenue.

After an investigation that included the use of telephone wiretaps, Stephen Varkony Jr., 50, of Leetonia was charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Court documents name 54-year-old Mohd Rawhneh of Boardman as a co-conspirator, who is not charged in the case.

According to the federal indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court, while employed as an Auditor in the Youngstown office of the Ohio Department of Taxation from 2009 through 2012, Varkony helped Rawhneh avoid paying sales tax on receipts from several of Rawhneh's six convenience stores.

Rawhneh operates the Tiger's Den Drive Thru in Howland, the Hanoverton One Stop in Hanoverton, the 7 & 30 Superette and Ohio Food Mart in East Liverpool, as well as stores in Ravenna and Kent.

Evidence in the indictment includes transcripts of intercepted text messages and phone conversations between Varkony, Rawhneh and his employees.

On Wednesday, Varkony appeared in U.S. District Court in Youngstown before a magistrate who set bond at $20,000.

Court documents say that this case is related to another federal investigation in which Rawhneh pleaded guilty to charges of aiding and abetting, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to tamper with a witness, victim or an informant.

In that case, Rawhneh and two Valley lawyers were indicted on charges of extortion, conspiracy to obstruct justice, making false statements and related charges.

Investigators say that Rawhneh, attorney Neal Atway, 47, of Youngstown and attorney Scott Cochran, 43, of Austintown conspired to extort money or other items of value from Charles Muth, who also owns several convenience stores in the Valley.

In December 2011, someone in a passing car fired a shot at a Boardman residence occupied by Rawhneh's wife. Muth was identified as an occupant of that car. The subsequent investigation into that allegation led to the discovery of more than 100 marijuana plants at Muth's Canfield home.

Muth was eventually convicted of federal charges. But federal investigators say as Muth was waiting to be sentenced, his attorney Neal Atway and Rawhneh led Muth to believe that unless Rawhneh received money and property from Muth, Rawhneh would appear at Muth's sentencing and give testimony that could increase Muth's sentence.

The indictment alleges that although attorneys Atway and Cochran purportedly represented Muth, they helped formulate the means by which Rawhneh would obtain money and property from Muth.

At one point, Muth allegedly gave Rawhneh part ownership in one of his stores, and gave attorney Atway $18,000 dollars with the understanding that the cash would be given to Rawhneh.

The U.S. Attorneys office has notified U.S. District Court that Varkony was identified as Public Official 1 in the supplemental information provided in the case involving Rawhneh, Atway and Cochran.

The cases against attorneys Atway and Cochran are still pending in federal court. Rawhneh will be sentenced in August.










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