Monday, June 7, 2010

Luzerne County Scandal Update

The dance around the contractor continues with the sentencing of the former executive director of the Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority. H. Allen Bellas, 60, of Kingston, pleaded guilty in January to corrupt receipt of a reward for official action accoring to this story that appeared in today's Times Leader.

Federal prosecutors say Bellas accepted money from a contractor in 2008 in exchange for helping the contractor gain acceptance into a tax incentive program.

More information was contained in this article in the Citizen's Voice.

Bellas, 60, was sentenced to six months home confinement followed by 18 months probation and fined $10,000 by U.S. District Judge Thomas I. Vanaskie.

The developer who paid Bellas has not been identified by federal prosecutors, but information in court documents indicates it was Anthony Trombetta, who received a $1.1 million government-backed loan through the authority for a housing project in Jenkins Township.

Trombetta’s dealings with local government and school officials have been a focus of wide-ranging corruption probe that has produced more than 30 arrests.

Bellas, a former president of the Wyoming Valley West School Board, resigned from the board shortly before his plea agreement with prosecutors was announced last year.

In another matter sentencing for a businessman who accepted money from one person plus provided free carpeting to another was postponed.

Painting/carpeting contractor Richard Emanski’s acceptance of $7,500 in an alleged deal involving another contractor and a public official complicated his sentencing for supplying free carpeting to a Wilkes-Barre Area School Board member today, leading to a postponement.

Emanski, 66, would face six to 12 months in the carpeting case under federal sentencing guidelines, but his attorney, Carl Poveromo, asked U.S. District Judge Thomas I. Vanaskie to consider a sentence of home confinement or probation during a sentencing hearing this morning.

In response, Vanaskie referred to a pre-sentence report, which has not been made public, which states that Emanski has made other payments to public officials and once split a $15,000 payment from another contractor with an unnamed public official. While those payments were not used to determine Emanski’s range of possible sentences under the guidelines, Vanaskie asked if they could be considered when deciding between a probationary sentence and a prison sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Houser told Vanaskie that it was his position that the $7,500 payment, revealed to prosecutors by Emanski after his arrest, should not be used to “penalize” him.

It appears the sentencing is leading to speculation of more charges due to cooperation by defendants. I have a friend at the Attorney General's office who says he keeps a card in his briefcase. On one side it says "defendant" and on the other side it says "witness". He gives to a person he is questioning and tells them you decide which one you want to be.

Evidently the FBI has a card that says "defendant who cooperates" and "defendant with hard time". Seems like some are making the right choice.

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