Judge Accused of Stealing Almost $100,000 From a Dead Client
The jury may be out but the judge is in -- in trouble, that is.
Judge Diane Vettori-Caraballo is in deep deliberations after being charged with stealing at least $96,200 from a former client. She announced her resignation by voicemail to the Mahoning County presiding judge.
In a press release, federal prosecutors said Vettori-Caraballo faces charges of fraud, making false statements to law enforcement, and other allegations. The release also said the charges are not evidence of guilt -- as if that matters at this point.
For public officials, a trial in the press is usually a precursor to a public execution -- figuratively speaking. But in Vettori-Caraballo's case, somebody actually died.
The judge, who was elected to the bench in 2002, prepared a will for Robert Sampson. He died in 2015, and the judge filed an application to administer his estate.
His sister Dolores Falgiani was named administrator, but then she died. As it turned out, Vettori-Caraballo had also prepared her will.
Something wasn't right during Falgiani's probate and it came to light when relatives wrote the court. They were "extremely disappointed with the handling of the estate" and questioned the whereabouts of a diamond ring that belonged to the deceased woman as well as other unaccounted-for assets.
According to investigators, Falgiani had stored boxes of cash at her home. They said the judge stole between $96,200 and $328,000 in cash from the woman's estate.
Vettori-Caraballo allegedly told investigators that she hadn't "received a nickel" from the Falgiani estate and that the deposits came from her husband's retirement account. But prosecutors say the judge made 22 separate deposits of $96,200 in cash into different accounts within four weeks to avoid reporting requirements.
In the meantime, the Ohio Supreme Court has disqualified the judge from serving on the bench until the criminal case is resolved. Reportedly, she is expected to plead guilty.
"Vettori-Caraballo's colleagues in the county's area courts say they learned she was in trouble through the local media," according to the Legal Profession Blog.
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