Former Old Forge Borough President charged by FBI

·2 min read

Jun. 10—Former Old Forge Borough President Robert Semenza Jr. will plead guilty next week to federal charges that accuse him of taking bribes to help a business owner being sued by the borough, according to investigators.

Semenza, 47, was charged Wednesday for soliciting, demanding and accepting cash payments in exchange for performing and promising to perform official acts between January 2019 and February 2020.

Those acts, investigators said, were in connection with a civil lawsuit filed by Old Forge Borough against a local business owner in a dispute over borough zoning ordinances, according to the department. The councilman agreed to vote on the business owner's behalf in matters before borough council, to advocate on behalf of the local business owner with council, the borough solicitor and zoning officials, and to propose a favorable resolution for the civil litigation council and solicitor in exchange for cash payments, according Acting United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler.

The U.S. Attorney's office did not identify the local business owner but court records show only one active civil case in 2019 over a borough zoning ordinance.

The Old Forge Borough went to court in 2018 to shut down Scrap Enterprises owned by Walter Stocki Jr. at Rear 105 North Keyser Ave. Borough officials have argued Stocki is operating a junkyard in violation of the zoning ordinance. The case is still active.

Lackawanna County Judge Tom Munley ordered Walter Stocki Jr. on July 31, 2018 to "immediately cease any and all activity on the property." Stocki was given six months to clean up the property. The judge found Stocki in contempt of court on April 22 for failing to abide by agreements he reached with the borough in 2018 and 2019 to rectify issues at the business. Munley barred Stocki from operating a junkyard, directed him to remove nonoperational vehicles and equipment by June 15 and to bring the property into compliance with the borough's zoning ordinance by June 30.

Stocki, when reached Wednesday by the newspaper, declined to comment on the charges. Old Forge Borough Solicitor William Rinaldi and Mayor Bob Legg also did not respond for comment.

The case was investigated by the Scranton FBI's Public Corruption Task Force and Internal Revenue Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip J. Caraballo is prosecuting the case.

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Contact the writer: kbolus@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5114; @kbolusTT on Twitter