SCRANTON, PA — The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that on February 17, 2023, United States District Court Judge Malachy E. Mannion sentenced James J. Peperno, Jr., age 58, of Old Forge, Pennsylvania, to 72 months of imprisonment. Peperno was convicted following a jury trial of nine counts of conspiracy, federal program bribery, honest services wire fraud, Travel Act, false statement, and perjury offenses.
Peperno was convicted of soliciting 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 also was convicted of providing and promising 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. Peperno kept the majority of the cash payments paid by the local business owner.
Peperno also was convicted of providing false statements and 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.
In pronouncing the sentence, Judge Mannion labeled political corruption as “among one of the worst crimes one can commit,” describing how it “undermines the public’s trust in the people they elect,” and deeming it something “terrible for democracy.” Peperno also was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release following his term of imprisonment.
Robert Semenza, Jr., pleaded guilty in June 2021 to federal program bribery, and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison.
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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