SCRANTON, PA — The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that James J. Peperno, Jr., age 57, of Old Forge, Pennsylvania, was convicted Friday following a jury trial, of conspiracy, federal program bribery, honest services wire fraud, Travel Act, false statement, and perjury offenses. The nine-day trial was held before United States District Court Judge Malachy E. Mannion in Scranton.
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 making false statements and giving 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.
The jury returned a guilty verdict on September 9, 2022, after approximately seven hours of deliberation. Peperno was convicted of: one count of conspiring to commit federal program bribery and honest services wire fraud; two counts of federal program bribery; two counts of honest services wire fraud; one count of violating the Travel Act; one count of false statements; and two counts of perjury. The jury acquitted Peperno of money laundering charges.
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. Attorneys Phillip J. Caraballo and Jeffrey St John.
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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