YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – “Crooked City: Youngstown, Ohio.” It’s the title of a podcast that drops on Monday.
There are 15 episodes, 30 to 45 minutes each, focusing on organized crime in Youngstown. It’s produced and narrated by Marc Smerling who has won an Emmy. But it couldn’t have been done without the research of Youngstown-based podcast producer Johnny Chechitelli who is also a producer here at WKBN.
Chechitelli showed off his desk covered with research for the podcast.
“These are the transcripts when the Carabbia brothers taped Jim Traficant accepting bribes,” said Chechitelli.
Smerling took much of Chechitelli’s seven years of research to create the podcast.
“I can’t underestimate the value of Johnny and what he did at WKBN, to be honest. Going through all those dusty old boxes, looking at tons and tons of tape all day long,” said Smerling.
In 2016, Smerling dropped a podcast called “Crimetown,” which focused on organized crime in Providence, Rhode Island.
“And I’ll never forget he called me in 2019 and I said, ‘I’ve been waiting for you to call.’ I said, ‘This is Crimetown. No offense to Providence, but Youngstown is Crimetown,'” said Chechitelli.
“Crooked City” starts with the closing of the Steel Mills and follows the timeline of Jim Traficant.
“There’s a lot of things in here where you think you know the story, but then you hear it and you say, ‘Wow I didn’t know that,'” said Chechitelli.
Smerling made eight visits to Youngstown and was given tours.
“And showed me where the All American Club was and the Numbers Bank,” said Smerling.
Having covered organized crime now in two cities Smerling has a unique perspective.
“There’s a fraternal and familial aspect to it that creates this sort of twisted forgiveness. People do bad things and they still get forgiven for it,” said Smerling.
Why start the story of Youngstown’s organized crime in the 1970s when it began in the 1930s? Well, Smerling only tells true crime stories with first-person narratives and there’s no one around to talk about what happened way back when.