Scranton, Pa. -- The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced on Wednesday, June 9, that Robert Semenza, Jr., 47, of Old Forge has been charged in a criminal information with federal program bribery.
According to Acting United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, Semenza, president of the Old Forge Borough Council, solicited, demanded, and accepted cash payments in exchange for performing and promising official actions between January of 2019 and February of 2020.
The official acts were in connection with a civil litigation filed by the Borough against a local business owner during a zoning ordinance dispute. Semenza is accused of agreeing to vote on the business owner's behalf before t
he Borough Council and advocate for the business owner in front of the Council, Borough Solicitor, and Old Forge zoning officials.
“When public officials use their office to line their pockets rather than serve the public it not only constitutes a serious crime but also breeds cynicism and undermines the electorate’s faith in government,” stated Acting United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler.
“Our office and the FBI’s public corruption task force are committed to rooting out all public corruption in the Middle District and will commit all necessary resources to that task.”
The case was investigated by the Scranton FBI's Public Corruption Task Force, which consists of Pennsylvania State Police and Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office members with federal agents from the FBI and IRS. Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip J. Caraballo is prosecuting the case.
A criminal information is only an allegation; those charged are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.
The maximum penalty for the crime that Semenza has been accused of is 10 years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine.
If found guilty, the case's judge will be required to consider and weigh various factors including the nature, circumstances, and severity of the offense, the history and characteristics of the defendant, and the need for punishment, possible danger to the public, and the defendant's educational, vocational, and medical needs.
In other words: if found guilty, Semenza will not necessarily receive the maximum penalty.