"An organized crime syndicate was extorting money from his (Tom Ganley’s) business, threatening his family, but he fought back and won the FBI's highest civilian award"

Tom Ganley on Thursday, September 16th, 2010 in a campaign video

Tom Ganley's first video ad touts role in FBI investigation

Tom Ganley's first campaign television ad.

Tom Ganley is the largest automobile dealer in Ohio, and the owner of other businesses including insurance, real estate, aviation, and finance companies. But it is a reference to his encounter with organized crime in the 1980s that opens the first TV ad in his GOP campaign for Congress against 13th district Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton:

"An organized crime syndicate was extorting money from his business, threatening his family, but he fought back and won the FBI's highest civilian award."

PolitiFact Ohio earlier gave Ganley a rating of Barely True rating for his claim, in a Sept. 13 interview with The Plain Dealer’s editorial board, that he took down the mob in Northeast Ohio.

That claim overstated his role.

Truth be told, though, we felt bad about putting a mark against Ganley’s reputation in what is, by all accounts, a laudable act: endangering himself in the interest of justice. He was instrumental in helping the Justice Department put several dangerous criminals behind bars.

We wondered whether his overstatement to the newspaper’s editorial board is how he has been portraying his role in the investigation to the public.

Before we get to what we found, we note, in the interest of transparency, that Ganley is a major advertiser in The Plain Dealer.

We did not find that Ganley has overstated his role in the investigation when speaking to the public, although others have. Generally, Ganley has portrayed his role the way he portrays it in his political ad: someone who helped the FBI with an investigation. Our reporting for the earlier PolitiFact item backs up what the TV ad says.

Articles in The Plain Dealer archives show that two organized crime figures -- former Teamsters Union leader John J. (Skip) Felice and Joseph C. Ilaqua -- were sent to prison by U.S. District Judge Alvin I. Krenzler in July 1983 after pleading guilty to conspiring to extort $10,000 and a car from Ganley in 1981 and 1982.

The indictment against Felice said he told Ganley in April 1981 that high ranking organized crime figures wanted Ganley killed, and that Felice could get the contract canceled in exchange for money. Ganley wore a wire when he met with the extortionists and asked questions at the FBI's request to help the bureau crack other cases, former FBI agents said.

"During this investigation, it became evident to these organized crime members that Mr. Ganley was cooperating with the FBI and that he would be testifying against them at trial," says a 2007 press release the FBI issued when it gave Ganley its Louis E. Peters Memorial Service Award. "This realization resulted in additional death threats directed at Mr. Ganley and his family. Mr. Ganley refused to be intimidated by these criminals and consented to having FBI agents live at his residence to provide security for himself and his family."

Retired FBI agents contacted by The Plain Dealer described Ganley’s actions as courageous and important to the FBI’s investigative strategy.

We rate the claim in his television ad to be True.