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Public Corruption Prosecutions

 

This web page is a means for the public to be informed of the status of pending and recent cases of great and/or continuing public interest involving or related to public corruption. The web page information will be updated periodically.

From 2009 to the present, approximately 31 individuals have been prosecuted by this office on charges involving political corruption in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The cases with the most public interest were those concerning three Pennsylvania State Court of Common Pleas Court Judges in Luzerne County, two elected Lackawanna County Commissioners and two State Senators.

For publicly available information on other cases prosecuted as part of the U.S. Attorney's Office's continuing focus on public corruption as a high priority, please check our website or contact our media representative at 717-221-4482.  In coordination with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the office is continuing to investigate and prosecute alleged federal, state, and local corruption and government program fraud throughout the district.

If you believe that you have information relating to criminal wrongdoing relating to federal, state, and/or local political corruption in the Middle District of Pennsylvania please contact the the U.S. Attorney's Office via email usapam.contact@usdoj.gov or phone at 717-221-4482 or the nearest FBI office in the Middle District of Pennsylvania:

FBI Harrisburg

FBI Scranton

FBI Williamsport

FBI State College

FBI Allentown (Schuylkill County)

RECENT PROSECUTIONS

U.S. v. Melissa Arnold

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that a Criminal Information was filed on February 24, 2015 against Melissa Ann Arnold, 46, of York.

The Information alleges that during 2008 and 2009, Arnold stole more than $300,000 from tax payments made by citizens to Spring Garden Township, York County. Arnold was the Treasurer and Tax Collector for Spring Garden Township from 1995 until October 2009. Arnold was allegedly able to steal the tax payments because many of the checks were written out to her and, rather than deposit the checks into the Township’s account, she deposited them into her personal account.

The government also filed a plea agreement with the defendant which must be approved by the court. York County submitted an insurance claim for the funds and received full repayment. Arnold has entered into an agreement with the insurance company to pay back the full amount and has already paid part of the amount due.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance of the Pennsylvania State Police and Spring Garden Township Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James T. Clancy.

U.S. v. Robert M. McCord

The United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced on February 17, 2015 that former Pennsylvania State Treasurer Robert M. McCord pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted extortion in violation of Title 18, United States Code Section 1951(a).

Each count is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment and fine of up to $250,000. U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones, III, accepted the guilty plea and scheduled a pre-sentence conference for June 29, 2015.

Mr. McCord admitted that he attempted to extort campaign contributions from a law firm and a property management company while he was running for Governor by threatening economic harm to the potential donors if they failed to make sufficient campaign contributions. In particular, McCord threatened to use his position as State Treasurer to interfere with the business that the law firm and property management firm were conducting with the state if they did not make the contributions.

McCord was charged in a two count Criminal Information filed on February 2, 2015.  No sentencing date has been set.  McCord resigned from the Office of State Treasurer on January 30, 2015.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis C. Pfannenschmidt was designated United States Attorney for this case because United States Attorney Peter J. Smith recused himself. Mr. Smith previously worked for Mr. McCord for a short period of time at the Pennsylvania Treasury Department.

Mr. Pfannenschmidt stated that “public corruption cases are some of the most serious cases our office handles and this case indicates a serious breach of the public trust. Our office is committed to working with our law enforcement partners in holding public officials responsible for their violation of the public trust.”

“The citizens of the Commonwealth expect and deserve public officials who perform their duties free of deceit, favoritism, bias, self-enrichment, concealment and conflict of interest,” said Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko of the Philadelphia Division of the FBI. “Public corruption is an erosion of the public’s trust in our system of government, and the FBI stands committed to holding public officials accountable when they violate their oaths of office and betray that trust.”

"The abuse of power by elected officials tears at the fabric of society, undermines the rule of law and weakens public confidence in government," said Major Andrew Ashmar, Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Criminal Investigation. "The Pennsylvania State Police is steadfast in our commitment to bring to justice those who use the power of their office for personal gain rather than serving the best interest of the public."

“When our public officials fail to uphold the integrity of the office to which they were elected, the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division is committed to working with our fellow law enforcement agencies to restore the public’s trust,” said Special Agent in Charge Akeia Conner.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division. The prosecution is assigned to Assistant United States Attorneys Michael A. Consiglio, William S. Houser, and Gordon A. D. Zubrod.

U.S. v. John Yuknavich

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced on January 22, 2015 that John Yuknavich, age 51, former Chief of the Wilkes-Barre Township Volunteer Fire Department, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Edwin M. Kosik to six months in federal prison for stealing $45,000 from the fire department and Wilkes-Barre Township in the course of his duties as Chief of that fire department between 2008 and 2011. Yuknavich was further ordered to serve six months of home confinement upon release from incarceration, followed by three years of supervised release.

Yuknavich was responsible for ensuring the deposit of monthly funds received from Wilkes-Barre Township, as well as all other funds received either through charitable contributions or annual state aid received from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Yuknavich allegedly deposited only part of the monthly $3500 check received from Wilkes-Barre Township intended to pay fire department bills, and took the remainder of the check in cash, most of which he used for his personal benefit.

Federal law prohibits theft or intentional misapplication of $5,000 or more from local government programs that receive more than $10,000 in federal funds annually.

The Government also filed an additional sentencing agreement wherein Yuknavich agreed to resign completely from the Wilkes-Barre Township fire department and the Wilkes-Barre Township Fire Hall in all capacities, effective immediately. He was also ordered to pay $45,000 in restitution.

The prosecution is the result of a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, and the Pennsylvania State Police with the assistance of the Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General. Prosecution is assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Michelle Olshefski.

Updated April 20, 2015