Home Philadelphia Press Releases 2009 Federal Officials Announce the Filing of a Criminal Charge Against The Former President of the of Wilkes-Barre Area...
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Federal Officials Announce the Filing of a Criminal Charge Against The Former President of the of Wilkes-Barre Area School District Board of Education

U.S. Attorney’s Office May 16, 2009
  • Middle District of Pennsylvania (717) 221-4482

Martin C. Carlson, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania; Janice Fedaryck, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Don Fort, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, jointly announced today that James Height, age 53, of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, who resigned last week as President of the Wilkes-Barre Area School District Board of Education, has been charged in a criminal information with allegedly accepting $2,000 in cash in connection with support he provided to a contractor in connection with an attempt by the contractor to obtain a contract with the Wilkes-Barre Area School District. In a plea agreement filed simultaneously with the charge, Height has agreed to plead guilty to the offense.

According to U.S. Attorney Carlson, today’s announcement marks the seventh person charged with criminal conduct since late January of this year in an on-going public corruption investigation. On April 20, 2009, Brian Dunn, age 45, a member of the school board for the Wilkes-Barre Area School District, was charged in a criminal complaint with allegedly accepting cash in connection with the hiring of teachers and the awarding of contracts by the Wilkes-Barre Area School District.

On April 16, 2009, Dr. Ross Scarantino, age 64, Superintendent of Schools for the Pittston Area School District, was also charged in a criminal complaint with allegedly accepting cash in connection with the award of contracts by the Pittston Area School District. Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, the former President Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County have been charged with engaging in an honest services fraud and tax conspiracy. They have pleaded guilty to these charges and are awaiting sentencing. William Sharkey, the former Court Administrator of Luzerne County, has pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges and is awaiting sentencing. Sandra Brulo, the former Deputy Director of Forensic Programs for the Luzerne County Probation Office, has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and is awaiting sentencing. As a result of the investigation, former Luzerne County Prothonotary, Jill Moran, has also resigned from her office and has voluntarily agreed to the entry of a court order directing her to cooperate with the on-going federal public corruption probe looking into allegations of misconduct at the Luzerne County Courthouse.

On April 8, the FBI issued a statement requesting the public’s assistance in this on-going investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact Special Agent Richard Southerton or Special Agent Joseph Noone in the FBI’s Scranton office at 570-344-2404. James Height faces a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment, up to a $250,000 fine and a maximum three years of supervised release.

This case is part of an on-going investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service and is being prosecuted by a team of federal prosecutors led by Senior Litigation Counsel Gordon Zubrod and includes Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Houser, Michael Consiglio, Amy Phillips and Criminal Division Chief Christian Fisanick.

An Indictment or Information is not evidence of guilt but simply a description of the charge made by the Grand Jury and/or United States Attorney against a defendant. A charged Defendant is presumed innocent until a jury returns a unanimous finding that the United States has proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt or until the defendant has pled guilty to the charges.

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