Virginia Barborak pleaded guilty Tuesday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to tampering with records, grand theft and forgery, the latter of which was reduced from a second-degree felony to a fourth-degree felony. A charge of perjury and a second tampering with records were dismissed as part of the plea deal reached with Brad Tammaro, an attorney with the state attorney general’s office who served as special prosecutor.
Barborak, 47, of Salem, was scheduled to go on trial last week but then agreed to the plea deal. A presentence investigation was ordered and when it is completed a sentencing hearing will be scheduled.
Tammaro is not making a sentencing recommendation at this time, but the charges carry a maximum combined sentence of six years in prison and $20,000 fine.
The charges all relate to Barborak’s handling of the estate of James Patsey, a former Lisbon resident and teacher who was living in Trumbull County at the time of his death in 2013. Barborak was Patsey’s attorney and filed his will in Trumbull County Probate Court. The will directed $50,000 from the estate go to the Lisbon Alumni Association (LAA) to establish a scholarship fund in the name of Patsey’s late son.
Barborak received $51,000 from Patsey’s executor and it was placed in her client trust account on March 8, 2013, raising the account balance to $51,268. Once deposited, the money can only be transferred or spent to settle the particular estate or pay estate expenses.
“The defendant then immediately and systematically siphoned money out of that account until the amount that remained in the account was $4,439.07 as of March 31, 2013,” Tammaro wrote in the plea agreement.
During the three-week period, Barborak wrote checks to herself and her sister who worked for her. There was also a debit transaction in the amount of $10,000. She also paid other clients with the Patsey money and also paid herself for handling other clients’ estates.
A year later, Barborak filed an estate report in probate court stating the $50,000 had been disbursed to the LAA, which was false. When an alert member of the LAA began asking questions and started demanding the money be transferred, Barborak paid the LAA in three installments spread over June and July 2014.
Because of the questions raised by the LAA, probate court held a hearing in February 2015 during which Barborak testified no money had been misspent and that it was always in the account. The judge asked for bank records and the ones submitted by Barborak turned out to be fakes, “to cover up the fact she had lied to the court,” Tammaro wrote.
In addition to her private practice in Lisbon, Barborak served as an assistant county prosecutor from 2001-13 and Lisbon village solicitor until 2015.
Barborak has also been disbarred by the Ohio Supreme Court after its investigation determined she engaged in a “pattern of dishonesty” from 2009 into 2015 involving the misappropriation of more than $150,000 in client funds from several estates: Patsey’s estate and three others filed in Columbiana County Probate Court.