Former Old Forge Borough Council President Sentenced for Bribery

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SCRANTON, PA — The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Robert Semenza, Jr., age 47, of Old Forge, Pennsylvania, was sentenced yesterday by United States District Judge Malachy E. Mannion, to 12 months of imprisonment for committing bribery.

According to United States Attorney Gerard M. Karam, Semenza, the former President of the Old Forge Borough Council, pleaded guilty to soliciting, demanding, and accepting cash payments in exchange for performing and promising to perform official acts, between January 2019 and February 2020.  The official acts were in connection with a civil litigation filed by Old Forge Borough against a local business owner in a dispute over Old Forge zoning ordinances.  Semenza 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.

Judge Mannion also imposed one year of supervised release on Semenza, following his term of imprisonment.  In pronouncing the sentence, Judge Mannion highlighted the negative effect that the public corruption offense had on the public’s trust in its elected officials.

Semenza’s conspirator, James J. Peperno, Jr., was convicted following a jury trial, of conspiracy, federal program bribery, honest services wire fraud, Travel Act, false statement, and perjury offenses. Peperno is awaiting sentencing.

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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.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Phillip J. Caraballo and Jeffrey St John prosecuted the case.

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