Ohio Supreme Court disqualifies Sebring Judge facing criminal ch - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Prosecutors say Vettori-Caraballo stole thousands from dead client

Ohio Supreme Court disqualifies Sebring Judge facing criminal charge

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Diane Vettori-Caraballo Diane Vettori-Caraballo
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

A Mahoning County Court Judge has been disqualified from hearing cases after being charged by federal authorities with stealing at least $96,200 from a former client. 

According to the United State District Attorney, Judge Diane Vettori-Caraballo, 49, of Youngstown, 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 allegedly stole between $96,200 and $328,000 in cash that was in the home of a client when that client died in March 2016, according to the criminal information.

Tuesday afternoon the Ohio Supreme Court issued an order disqualifying Vettori-Caraballo from acting as a judge while the case against her remains pending.

Supreme Court officials say it is up to the Presiding Judge in Mahoning County to assign a judge to hear pending cases in Sebring Court.

If no judge is available, the State Supreme Court will appoint a visiting judge.

Vettori-Caraballo was elected to the position of Sebring Court judge in Mahoning County in 2002, with jurisdiction over misdemeanor criminal and traffic charges and other matters in Sebring and Beloit Villages and Berlin, Green, Goshen, Ellsworth, Smith and Washingtonville Townships.

According to the bill of information, Vettori-Caraballo provided estate planning services to Robert Sampson.

When Sampson died, Vettori-Caraballo allegedly helped prepare a will for his sister, Dolores Falgiani, who had become the administrator of his estate.

Sometime in October or November 2015, Falgiani stated she was in possession of several shoe boxes of cash stored at her residence. Falgiani was found dead in her home on March 10, 2016, according to the information.

According to investigators, at the time of her death, Falgiani had a handwritten note about cash and/or other funds tucked into her checkbook. 

The note reportedly detailed several shoe boxes of cash, as well as bonds, totaling more than $512,000.

Investigators say that at the time, Falgiani had $92,800- $328,000 in cash in the residence. Officials allege that Vettori-Caraballo stole all but $20,000 of the cash. 

Officials say that on or about May 2, 2016, Vettori-Caraballo sent a text to the attorney serving as Fiduciary of the Falgiani estate stating that she had just found the cash in the Falgiani residence.

In a later text to the administrator on the same date, she allegedly reported having made the $20,000 cash deposit and further stated, "Had to give fingerprints and license and everything. ! ! ! Lol I'm a drug dealer in the system now."

The U.S. District Attorney also argues that or about July 31, 2016, the Falgiani family sent a letter to the Probate Court stating its members were extremely disappointed with the handling of the estate. The letter alleged that they had asked the Defendant about the whereabouts of a 3-4 carat diamond ring, and the Defendant responded that the ambulance driver might have taken it.

Investigators say Vettori-Caraballo was questioned by a Special Agent of the FBI and said that she never "received a nickel" from the case.

Vettori-Caraballo also allegedly told investigators that money that she had deposited into several bank accounts was from her father's death and from her husband's retirement funds. 

The U.S. Attorney's Office said that in this case Angels for Animals and Animal Charity are listed as the victims of the case since Falgiani's will requested that money be bequeathed to them. 

"It's just appalling. It's terrible you were stealing from someone that was deceased to begin with, but on top of that money that was intended for charity. We just can't understand it," said Mary Louk with Animal Charity. "We are really in need of a new building so that potentially could have been seed money for a capital campaign." 

Officials with Angels for Animals tell 21 News they first met Falgiani when she asked them to pick-up two stray cats she had been caring for at her home. Angels for Animals said when they picked up the cats, Falgiani gave them a $4,000 donation in a envelope. Officials with the non-profit said they called to Falgiani to ensure the money was intended for them and she said, she knew they could use the money.

Officials said they are still trying to determine the exact amount of money that was taken. 

In most cases, prosecutors issue a bill of information instead of an indictment when the defendant intends to plead guilty to the charge or charges and forgo the grand jury process, and that's what long-time attorney and Chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party David Betras believes is happening here.

"So if I'm reading between the lines here it looks like she's already reached some kind of an agreement with the federal government and now they're just going to formalize it," Attorney Betras said.

Vettori-Caraballo did not return a call for comment.

She is scheduled to appear in federal court next week. 

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