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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

Tyson Baker

On December 18, 2015, the United States Attorney’s Office announced that a 17 year veteran police officer with the Fairview Township Police Department was arrested by federal authorities on corruption charges.  

Officer Tyson Baker, age 41, Etters, was charged in a criminal complaint with violations of federal law relating to his conduct as a police officer.

In the complaint, the Federal Bureau of Investigation charged Baker with stealing money from drug traffickers who had been arrested, the subject of police traffic stops, or both.  The specific federal statute is the Hobbs Act, which prohibits interfering with interstate commerce by force, violence or intimidation. Baker was also charged with removing evidence that was subject to seizure and providing false information to federal authorities.

The complaint also charges that, in November, Baker orchestrated the theft of $2,000 in drug proceeds seized by the Fairview Township Police Department during a search of a residence that had resulted in the seizure of several pounds of marijuana and approximately $14,000.  The FBI recorded conversations with Baker allegedly regarding the theft. The criminal complaint also alleges that Baker discussed robbing drug traffickers of drug proceeds during traffic stops.

According to the complaint, on December 16, 2015 the FBI, with the full cooperation of the Fairview Township Police Department, arranged for a vehicle operated by an undercover FBI agent to be stopped. It is alleged that Baker had the vehicle towed from the scene and, without a warrant and in spite of directions not to search the vehicle, allegedly searched the vehicle and stole $3,000 concealed in the vehicle.

The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Harrisburg Resident Office, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, and the Fairview Township Police Department.

Prosecution of the case is assigned to Assistant United States Attorney William A. Behe.

Baker had his initial appearance on December 18 before Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson in Harrisburg.  He was placed on pre-trial under strict conditions.

Criminal complaints, like indictments, are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.

Wilkes-Barre City Employees Federal Credit Union Investigation

On November 12, 2015, the former Assistant Manager of the Wilkes-Barre City Employees Federal Credit Union was sentenced by United States District Judge A. Richard Caputo to a sentence of time served followed by two years of supervised release.

Amanda Magda, age 29, of Wilkes-Barre, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bank fraud in January 2015.  Magda was charged in a superseding indictment with codefendant, Leo Glodzik.  The charges stem from a scheme involving a former Wilkes-Barre police officer, Tino Ninotti, and Glodzik, a contractor for the city.  Ninotti allegedly conspired with Glodzik to secure a loan from the credit union by using false and fraudulent collateral.  Magda falsely witnessed the signature of another person to the loan agreement which was actually forged by Ninotti.  Magda no longer is employed at the credit union, which is under new management and has instituted new policies and procedures to address the problems and eliminate the abuses that led to the fraud prosecutions.

The charges against Leo Glodzik are still pending.  Tino Ninotti pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud in April 2015 and sentencing is scheduled for January 12, 2016.

On April 14, 2015, the United States Attorney’s Office announced that a federal grand jury in Scranton filed a superseding indictment charging Leo Glodzik, age 44, of Wilkes-Barre with additional counts of bank fraud and false statements. In a separate indictment, Glodzik is charged with unlawful possession of three firearms in August 2014.

The new fraud charges are part of a continuing investigation involving the Wilkes-Barre City Employees Federal Credit Union, the City's former towing contractor (Glodzik) and Wilkes-Barre City police officers. Glodzik allegedly aided in the making of a false statement by using a fraudulent check drawn on a closed bank account as collateral for a $3,500 loan from the credit union to a co-defendant in July 2013.

In a separate indictment, the grand jury charged Glodzik with unlawful possession of three firearms in August 2014, specifically, a shotgun and two rifles. According to the indictment, Glodzik was allegedly a convicted felon at the time, as a result of a previous conviction on a state charge of theft.  On April 13, 2015, the government filed a plea agreement with one of the co-defendants, for Wilkes-Barre City police officer Tino Ninotti, which is subject to the approval of the court.

The investigation was conducted jointly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pennsylvania State Police. 

Prosecution is assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Michelle L. Olshefski.

Virginia G. Kunigonis

On October 15, 2015, a former Schuylkill County employee, Virginia G. Kunigonis, age 54, of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William W. Caldwell to embezzling $452,186 from the Schuylkill County Conservation District between 2007 and 2014.

In an Information filed with United States District Court in September 2015 in Harrisburg, Kunigonis, a county employee who worked for the County’s Conservation District, was charged with one count of theft from programs receiving federal funds.  The Information alleged Kunigonis forged 437 Conservation District checks totaling $410,435 payable to herself between October of 2007 and May of 2014.  The Information also alleged Kunigonis used a Conservation District credit card to pay an additional $41,751 in personal expenses during that same time period.  The Schuylkill County Conservation District received in excess of $10,000 in federal grant monies each year between 2007 and 2014. 

The embezzled money came from an account containing federal and state funds intended to be used for reclamation projects in the county.

Kunigonis’ guilty plea was entered pursuant to a plea agreement wherein she agreed to cooperate with the government, to make restitution as ordered by the court, and to forfeit the sum of $452,186, all of her interest in her Pottsville, PA residence, and all of her interest in her Schuylkill County employee retirement account, net of taxes, to the government.

Kunigonis began working as an administrative assistant for the Schuylkill County Conservation District in approximately 2002. Prior to that she worked in various capacities for Schuylkill County since 1986.  No date has yet been scheduled for sentencing.

The case was investigated by the Scranton Office of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Douglas Daniel.

James Short, Jr.

On September 15, 2015, the former Director of Marketing and Merchandising for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PA-LCB) pled guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia H. Rambo to a scheme to defraud the state, its citizens and the PA-LCB of their right to his honest services as a public official through bribes, kick-backs and concealing information.    

James H. Short, Jr., age 50, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, admitted to the charge of Honest Services Mail Fraud.  Short was indicted by a grand jury in August 2015.

Short served as the Director of Marketing and Merchandising from approximately 2003 to 2012 and supervised the process through which alcoholic beverages are selected and acquired for sale in Pennsylvania’s state-run liquor stores.  

By pleading guilty Short admitted to approximately 10 years (2002 to 2012) of receiving benefits from a distributor and a manufacturer of alcoholic beverages sold in Pennsylvania’s stores.  These benefits included all-expense paid golf trips, cash, gift cards, meals, and other benefits.

As Director of Marketing and Merchandising for the PA-LCB, Short supervised the process of recommending to the PA-LCB which new products should be sold and which products should no longer be sold in Pennsylvania’s 500 state-run liquor stores.

No date has been scheduled for Short’s sentencing.

The case is part of a continuing investigation by the Harrisburg Office of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael A. Consiglio. The case initially was brought by the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission which found that Short violated the Pennsylvania Ethics act when he accepted things of value charged in the present federal case.

Melissa Arnold

On February 24, 2015, 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.

Arnold has pled guilty and been sentenced to 5 years probation.  She was also ordered to pay $290,792 in restitution.

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.

Robert M. McCord

On February 17, 2015, 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.

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.

John Yuknavich

On January 22, 2015, 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 January 22, 2016