Corruption News

Semenza surrenders to Bureau of Prisons, Peperno scheduled for sentencing


Jan. 27—As a politician entered prison for taking bribes, the middleman convicted of collecting his cut learned his date with a judge.

Robert Semenza, 48, a former president of Old Forge borough council, surrendered Friday to the Federal Correctional Institution/Schuylkill to begin serving a sentence of one year and one day for bribery.

Also Friday, U.S. District Judge Malachy E. Mannion scheduled James J. Peperno Jr. for sentencing Feb. 17.

The two were convicted in a public corruption case centered on payoffs meant to aid a local businessman snared in expensive litigation with the borough.

Peperno, 58, was convicted in September by a federal jury with bribery and related offenses. Prosecutors accused him of taking cash in 2019 from scrap yard owner Walter Stocki Jr. and passing some to Semenza.

At the time, Stocki accrued daily fines from a lawsuit the borough brought in 2017 alleging he ran an illegal junk yard on North Keyser Avenue. Semenza and Peperno aimed to use the lawsuit to extract money from Stocki.

Authorities said Stocki paid Semenza thousands directly and thousands more through Peperno. Stocki worked with the government as an informant during the investigation to make payments.

As the investigation progressed, Semenza cooperated with the FBI and ended up providing testimony against Peperno. Semenza resigned from borough council in May 2021 when he agreed to plead guilty.

When Semenza took bribes, he was in the grip of an addiction to cocaine, he has said in court. He’s been sober more than two years.

His attorney, Jason Mattioli, said Friday that Semenza will be happy to put this behind him.

Reached Friday, Peperno declined to comment without speaking with his attorney, Gino Bartolai, who could not be reached for comment.

Contact the writer:, 570-348-9100, x5187; @jkohutTT on Twitter.

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