Second Old Forge man charged in bribery scheme involving former borough council president

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OLD FORGE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Another man has been charged in connection to an alleged bribery scheme that involved the former Old Forge Borough council president Robert Semenza Jr.

Acting United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler says 57-year-old James Peperno Jr. was indicted with various bribery, money laundering and perjury offenses. Peperno solicited cash payments and debt forgiveness from a local business owner to give to Semenza, according to Bandler.

Peperno allegedly provided cash and promised future employment to Semenza in exchange for Semenza performing official acts between November 2018 and October 2020.

In exchange for payments, Semenza Jr. agreed to vote and advocate on a business owner’s behalf in front of the Old Forge Borough Council over a civil litigation, court papers say.

The official acts were connected to the civil litigation filed by the Old Forge Borough over zoning ordinances against a local business owner.

Bandler says Peperno kept a portion of the cash paid by the local business owner, depositing it into a bank account in his parent’s name.

Peperno is charged with bribery conspiracy, federal program bribery, wire fraud, violating the Travel Act and bribery laundering.

Bandler says Peperno is also being charged for making false statements in connection to outstanding restitution from a prior federal conviction. Peperno allegedly claimed he did not have income or access to any bank accounts despite receiving approximately $6,000 from the local business owner, which was deposited into his parent’s account.

Semenza pleaded guilty to his charges in June and is awaiting sentencing.

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