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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.

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

Thomas Hartley

A former Special Agent with the Department of Labor was sentenced on August 23, 2023, to 33 months in prison for obtaining a total of $197,366 through multiple fraud schemes. Hartley collected Pennsylvania unemployment compensation benefits by claiming that he was unemployed, when Hartley was employed on full time active duty with the New Jersey National Guard. In applying for unemployment benefits, he failed to disclose that he was on military leave from his full-time federal civilian employment with the U.S. Department of Labor. Hartley utilized the mail to collect approximately $60,284 in unemployment compensation funds to which he was not entitled. Hartley also fraudulently obtained $23,582 in Basic Allowance for Housing funds paid by the Department of the Army, $50,000 in “lost wage” benefits paid by USAA insurance, and $63,500 from his Thrift Savings Plan.

Paul Helring

A 47-year-old former Scranton police officer and former elected police union president was charged on November 27, 2023 and pleaded guilty on January 25, 2024, for theft concerning programs receiving federal funds. Helring, while serving as the coordinator of Scranton Police Department’s extra duty overtime program, knowingly obtained by fraud over $5,000.00 in compensation paid to him for extra duty patrol shifts at several local, lower-income housing complexes that Helring claimed to work but did not in fact work.

David Donkochik, et al. 

Three Mt. Carmel Borough police officers were charged on June 16, 2023, with using excessive force when arresting people over a three-year period. The indictment alleges that former Lt. Donkockik, former Patrol Officer McHugh, and Patrol Officer Schauer were involved in a conspiracy to violate the civil rights of those they arrested from 2018 to 2021. The indictment alleges that in 22 different arrests, they kicked, punched, choked, and otherwise used excessive force against those they were arresting. In those arrests, they caused bodily injuries to their victims. Donkochik, McHugh and Schauer took steps to ensure that video of the arrests were not captured by police cameras, or if footage that incriminated them was captured, took steps to ensure that footage was not preserved. They falsely reported that arrestees acted in a manner requiring violence and then charged arrestees with aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and related offenses to conceal their own use of violence. Donkochik, McHugh and Schauer would then threaten arrestees with more violence.

James Peperno

On February 21, 2023, James Peperno was sentenced to six years in prison for soliciting bribes from a local business owner to provide to Robert Semenza, Jr., the former President of the Old Forge Borough Council.  Peperno also provided and promised cash and future employment to Semenza, in exchange for Semenza performing and promising to perform official acts, in relation to a state court civil litigation between Old Forge Borough and the local business owner.  Semenza advocated on behalf of the local business owner with the Old Forge Borough Council, the Old Forge Borough Solicitor, and Old Forge zoning officials, including by proposing a  resolution to the civil litigation that had been prepared by Peperno.  Semenza previously pled guilty to accepting the bribe payments from Peperno and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Peperno also made false statements and gave perjured testimony in connection with an outstanding restitution obligation owed from a prior federal conviction for mail fraud. Peperno 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, in the weeks immediately preceding his false statements and perjured testimony. Peperno, who owed approximately $390,000 on his outstanding restitution obligation, had not made any payments towards that debt in approximately one and one-half years.  

Jeffrey J. Vaughn

A former Scranton Police Sergeant, Jeffrey J. Vaughn, was was sentenced on May 4, 2023 to 6 months in prison for obtaining by fraud over $5,000.00 in compensation that was paid to him for certain extra duty patrol shifts at local, Scranton-area, lower-income housing complexes that Vaughn claimed to work but did not in fact work. Vaughn acknowledged that the monetary loss attributable to his conduct was between $6,500.00 and $15,000.00, and that he abused a position of public trust, namely, that of police patrol sergeant, in a manner that significantly facilitated the commission of his offense. Vaughn also agreed to make restitution to the affected housing complexes in the amount of $11,243.00.

 

 

 

Updated April 10, 2024