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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Pennsylvania

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Scranton Mayor Pleads Guilty To Corruption Charges

SCRANTON – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Scranton Mayor William L. Courtright, age 61, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty today to a criminal information charging him with three felony public corruption offenses.  The guilty pleas were entered before Chief United States District Court Judge Christopher C. Conner in Williamsport where Judge Conner was presiding over a trial in an unrelated matter.  Before entering his guilty pleas, Courtright resigned from his position as Mayor of Scranton.

According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, the criminal information charges Courtright with engaging in a multi-year conspiracy with unidentified individuals to take bribes from vendors who did business with the City. The information also alleges that other objectives of the conspiracy were to commit the offenses of attempted extortion under color of official right and extortion through use of fear of economic harm.

Courtright’s corrupt activities came to light during a multi-year undercover investigation headed by the FBI.  The undercover investigation revealed that the former mayor accepted cash payments from vendors doing business with the city in a pay-to-play scheme.               

“In this County, in this Commonwealth, in this Country – our elected officials work for us,” said U.S. Attorney Freed.  “Not the other way around.  Using public office for personal financial gain is a crime, plain and simple.  All citizens, not just those of us in law enforcement, should demand that our public officials scrupulously follow the law.  And when they do not, no matter how difficult the investigations may be, or how long they may take, the United States Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners will hold them to account.  I want to commend the painstaking work of our partners at the FBI who have never wavered in their commitment to the citizens of this district.  We are also grateful for the valuable assistance of IRS-Criminal Investigations and the Pennsylvania State Police.  We will not rest in the fight against corruption.”

“Bill Courtright used the city of Scranton,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “He traded on his office in exchange for money and other valuable favors. He wielded his official powers for his own benefit, when he should’ve been focused on that of his community. The FBI will never stop seeking to bring to justice corrupt public officials who so badly betray the public trust. To that end, we and our partners at the Pennsylvania State Police and the IRS have launched a task force specifically to take on public corruption in the northeast Pennsylvania region. We’re working on behalf of the people, who expect — and deserve — honest services from all their elected officials.”

The FBI was assisted during the investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations.  Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Consiglio, Michelle Olshefski and William Houser are prosecuting the case.

Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.

A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

The maximum penalty under federal law for this offense is 35 years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.

 

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Topic(s): 
Public Corruption
Updated July 2, 2019