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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

John Stachokus

On Augsut 17, 2016, John Stachokus, age 41, of Plains Township, was charged in a Criminal Information filed in the United States District Court in Scranton, with extortion and tampering with a witness.  It is alleged that the witness tampering charge is the result of Stachokus’ attempt to persuade a Government witness to offer false statements to federal law enforcement agents when asked about an investigation involving the extortion.

The Criminal Information further alleges that while acting in his official capacity as a corrections officer at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, Stachokus extorted money and other items of value from work release inmates in exchange for affording them special privileges and unauthorized furloughs.  It is alleged that in addition to cash, one particular inmate also purchased cocaine for Stachokus in exchange for special favors.  Stachokus allegedly engaged in such conduct beginning in November 2013 through February 2016.

The Criminal Information was filed pursuant to a plea agreement with Stachokus.  The plea agreement is subject to approval by the court.  No date has been scheduled as yet for the entry of Stachokus’ guilty plea.

The charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Prosecution is assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Michelle Olshefski.

Louis Elmy

On July 21, 2016, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Louis Elmy, age 51, of Wilkes-Barre, pleaded guilty before United States District Court Judge Edwin M. Kosik today in Scranton to extortion and a firearms violation. 

Elmy was charged in a Criminal Information filed in June 2016 in the U.S. District Court in Scranton, with extortion and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, specifically, the possession of and intent to distribute crack cocaine. The Information was filed pursuant to a plea agreement between the United States and Elmy.

While acting in his official capacity as the work release counselor at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, Elmy extorted money and other items of value from inmates on work release in exchange for giving them special privileges and unauthorized furloughs.

In order to have documentation for the furloughs that would appeared legitimate, Elmy created court orders by cutting and pasting a Luzerne County Judge’s signature from an older order onto the fraudulent order, and then photocopied the document for the file.  Elmy engaged in the conduct between November 2013 and February 2016.

Elmy was arrested in February 2016 on a criminal complaint relating to the firearms charge.

Elmy was employed by Luzerne County for approximately 20 years, including work as a corrections officer at the correctional facility prior to being a work release counselor.  Elmy also served as a member and president of the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board prior to the time period when the alleged criminal conduct occurred.

The charges are the result of an ongoing investigation by the Scranton Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Prosecution is assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Michelle Olshefski.

Barbara Hafer

On July 20, 2016, a federal grand jury in Harrisburg indicted the former Treasurer of Pennsylvania for concealing from federal investigators the receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees.

Barbara H. Hafer, age 72, of Indiana, Pennsylvania, was charged with two counts of making false statements to federal agents. In May 2016, federal agents interviewed Hafer as a part of an ongoing investigation.  During the interview, Hafer allegedly concealed her financial relationship with a business person, referred to in the indictment as “Person #1”, claiming that this person did not help with her consulting business.  When shown a signed contract between Hafer & Associates, LLC, and a company owned by the business person, Hafer denied receiving any payment on the contract.

According to the Indictment, Person #1 had a financial relationship with multiple businesses and had relationships, including fee sharing arrangements, with entities that provided asset management services to the Pennsylvania Treasury while Hafer served as Treasurer.

The Hafer interview took place as part of an ongoing long-term FBI-IRS investigation of alleged pay-to-play activities involving the Pennsylvania State government. The investigation revealed that in February 2005, within weeks of leaving the Office of Treasurer, a firm associated with Person #1 began making payments to Hafer’s consulting firm. For a year, Hafer & Associates received $41,667 a month, totaling the $500,000 committed in the contract.  Further, the investigation found that payments began before the contract was signed by the parties.  

Although Hafer allegedly claimed that this business person did not help her consulting business, the investigation revealed that the money allegedly accounted for approximately 73% of the funds Hafer & Associates earned in 2005.  According to the Indictment, Person #1 allegedly helped Hafer’s business by causing the $500,000 agreement to be entered into between Hafer & Associates and a company associated with Person #1 which did not require Hafer & Associates to achieve any particular result; before the Agreement was signed by all parties, Person #1 caused a company associated with Person #1 to pay the first of 12 monthly installments of $41,667 due pursuant to the Agreement; Person #1 caused the payment of approximately $500,000 to be made under the Agreement during the first year Hafer & Associates was in operation; and Person #1 caused an additional $175,000 to be paid to Hafer’s business during calendar years 2006 and 2007.

Hafer served two terms as Pennsylvania’s elected State Treasurer from 1997 to 2005 and two terms as State Auditor General from 1989 to 1997.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service.  The case is assigned to Assistant United States Attorneys Michael A. Consiglio and William S. Houser.

Richard Ireland

On July 20, 2016, as a part of the ongoing investigation into pay-to-play activities at the Pennsylvania Treasury, a grand jury in Harrisburg indicted a Valley Forge business owner for making hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret campaign contributions to the Pennsylvania Treasurer in a bid to influence the awarding of hundreds of millions of dollars in Pennsylvania state investments.

Richard W. Ireland, age 79, of Coatesville, was indicted for secretly making over a half-million dollars in campaign payments to former Treasurer of Pennsylvania Robert M. McCord as part of a seven-year long bribery scheme designed to influence investment decisions at Treasury and the State Employees Retirement System (SERS).  Ireland also promised to put McCord on “his payroll” after he left office in exchange for McCord’s influence.  The secret campaign contributions were made during McCord’s two campaigns for Pennsylvania Treasurer and in his unsuccessful 2014 bid for Governor of Pennsylvania. 

The investigation revealed that Ireland used straw campaign contributors to support McCord’s campaigns. At least $375,000 in campaign contributions were funneled through charities to conceal from the public that Richard Ireland was the true source of McCord’s campaign contributions. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in other campaign contributions were funneled through employees, who as straw campaign donors, hid Ireland as the true source of the campaign contributions.  Between 2009 and 2014, over $500,000 in secret campaign contributions were given to McCord.

These secret campaign contributions were given in exchange for McCord’s official decisions to continue to invest in businesses affiliated with Ireland.  These businesses had contracts with the Pennsylvania Treasury to manage hundreds of millions of dollars in Pennsylvania state assets.  Because of fee sharing agreements, these businesses paid Ireland as much as 50% of all the fees they received from Pennsylvania Treasury.  Over the years of this scheme, Ireland and these related businesses earned over $10,000,000 in fees.

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

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

Charles Pedri

On July 14, 2016, the former Solicitor for Hazle Township, Luzerne County, pleaded guilty today to the theft of approximately $105,586 from the township.

Charles Pedri, age 64, of Hazleton, entered a guilty plea before United States Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehlachick in Scranton to a Criminal Information which charged Pedri with theft from a program receiving federal funds. Pedri was the Solicitor for Hazle Township at the time of the theft.

As set forth in the Criminal Information, Hazle Township required a company which was developing a project in the Humboldt Industrial Park in the township to complete certain specific improvements to the property, pursuant to land development ordinances.  As security for the completion of the improvements, the company and Hazle Township entered into an escrow agreement.

Pedri, in his capacity as Hazle Township Solicitor, signed the agreement as escrow agent.  The company then paid to Hazle Township the sum of $105,586 to be held in escrow as security for the completion of the improvements.  Pedri, as escrow agent, deposited the funds into his law office account. Thereafter, Pedri began withdrawing the funds held in trust and converted the funds to his own personal use.  The investigation revealed that, between December 2012 and November 2013, Pedri wrote checks payable to himself, which were drawn on the Township funds.  By November 2013, the funds were gone. 

Upon completion of the improvements in May 2014, the company requested that Hazle Township return the escrowed funds.  Over a period of approximately eight months, Pedri made misrepresentations to representatives of the company regarding the status of the funds and failed to make payment. In January 2015, after the company informed Pedri it intended to file a law suit, Pedri admitted that he had converted the funds to his own use.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert J. O’Hara.

John Estey

On April 29, 2016, John H. Estey, age 53, of Ardmore, was charged with wire fraud in a Criminal Information filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg.

The Information charges that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted an undercover investigation of lobbying in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.  In that investigation, the FBI created an undercover business and hired Estey as a lobbyist to influence passage of certain legislation beneficial to the undercover business.  In 2011, as a part of that investigation, Estey agreed to secretly pay $20,000 in campaign contributions to members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly in connection with this legislation. When he was paid funds, Estey only passed through $7,000 in campaign contributions while secretly keeping $13,000. 

The government also filed a plea agreement with Mr. Estey which is subject to approval of the court. A date for his initial appearance has not been set.

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.  

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael A. Consiglio, Christy Fawcett, and William S. Houser.

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 February 17, 2016, a former Schuylkill County employee, Virginia G. Kunigonis, age 54, of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment by U.S. District Judge William W. Caldwell for embezzling $452,186 from the Schuylkill County Conservation District between 2007 and 2014.

Kunigonis pled guilty in October 2015 before Judge Caldwell to an Information charging her with Theft From Programs Receiving Federal Funds pursuant to a plea agreement with the government.  The Schuylkill County Conservation District receives in excess of $10,000 in federal grant monies each year. 

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 charged $41,751 in personal expenses against a Conservation District credit card during that same time period.  Evidence elicited during the sentencing hearing disclosed that the embezzlement scheme was undetected for so long because of the District’s failure to implement adequate internal controls and that Kunigonis used the stolen money, in part, to pay down more than $135,000 in credit card debt.

In addition to her 12 month sentence, Judge Caldwell ordered Kunigonis to pay $452,186 restitution consisting of $3,122 to Schuylkill County and $449,064 to Pennsylvania Counties Risk Pool (PCoRP), Schuylkill County’s bonding company.  Judge Caldwell also directed the forfeiture of Kunigonis’ interest in her Pottsville residence, and her interest in her Schuylkill County retirement account.

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.  

The case was investigated by the Scranton Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and was 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 August 25, 2016