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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Second Old Forge Man Charged With Bribery And Related Offenses

SCRANTON- The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that on September 28, 2021, James J. Peperno, Jr., age 57, of Old Forge, Pennsylvania, was indicted by a federal grand jury with various bribery, money laundering, and perjury offenses.

According to Acting United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, the indictment alleges that Peperno solicited cash payments and debt forgiveness from a local business owner, to provide to Robert Semenza, Jr., the former President of the Old Forge Borough Council.  Peperno allegedly provided and promised cash and future employment to Semenza, in exchange for Semenza performing and promising to perform official acts, between November 2018 and October 2020.  In particular, the official acts were in connection with a civil litigation filed by Old Forge Borough against the local business owner, in a dispute over Old Forge zoning ordinances.

Semenza allegedly agreed, in exchange for cash payments, to vote on the local business owner’s behalf in matters before the Old Forge Borough Council, to advocate on behalf of the local business owner with the Old Forge Borough Council, the Old Forge Borough Solicitor, and Old Forge zoning officials, and to propose a favorable resolution for the civil litigation to the Old Forge Borough Council and Solicitor, among other things.

Peperno allegedly kept a portion of the cash payments paid by the local business owner, depositing them in a bank account in his parents’ name.  Peperno was charged with a bribery conspiracy, with two counts of federal program bribery, two counts of honest services wire fraud, violating the Travel Act, and two counts of money laundering.

Peperno also was charged with false statements and perjury, in connection with an outstanding restitution obligation owed from a prior federal conviction.  Peperno allegedly claimed, in a written filing and when testifying under oath, that he did not have any income or access to any bank accounts, despite receiving approximately $6,000 from the local business owner, some of which he deposited in his parents’ bank account.

Peperno is the second individual charged in this investigation.  Robert Semenza, Jr., pleaded guilty in June 2021 to federal program bribery, and awaits sentencing.

The case was investigated by the Scranton Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Public Corruption Task Force, which consists of members of the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and federal agents from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip J. Caraballo.

Indictments 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 the most serious offense is 20 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): 
Financial Fraud
Updated September 29, 2021