FBI investigating embattled Pa. fire chief

Fire Chief John Yuknavich faces two theft cases for allegedly stealing from the department; 10 firefighters were subpoenaed to testify.

The Citizens’ Voice

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Several current and former members of the Wilkes-Barre Township Volunteer Fire Department reported to the federal courthouse in Scranton on Tuesday morning, where a grand jury is hearing evidence.

Luzerne County prosecutors recently revealed the FBI is investigating township Fire Chief John Yuknavich.

Yuknavich faced theft charges in county court, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office recently agreed to take over the prosecution, county officials said.

Yuknavich faced two separate theft cases for allegedly stealing from the fire department. In one case, investigators allege he diverted more than $48,000 in fire department money for his own use between 2008 and 2012. In the other case, state police claimed Yuknavich illegally wrote himself $11,865 in checks and made personal purchases at Sam’s Club totaling $3,706 with the department’s credit card.

Approximately 10 people affiliated with the township fire department arrived at the courthouse Tuesday and several said they were subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury.

Among them was James Youkoski, a former assistant chief with the fire department and current member of the township road crew.

While entering the courthouse, Youkoski told reporters to contact his attorney.

Yuknavich was a longtime member of the road department before resigning amid multiple controversies and arrests.

Yuknavich has remained at the helm of the fire department through all the troubles over several years. In fact, he was unanimously reappointed as chief just days after he was charged on allegations he stole from the fire department.

It’s not immediately clear if the investigation has any relation to the ongoing federal investigation in Wilkes-Barre City. However, the prosecutor who issued subpoenas, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Olshefski, is the same in both cases.

Additionally, federal officials are investigating the Wilkes-Barre City Employees Federal Credit Union as part of a broader investigation in the city. The credit union is one of the places where Yuknavich allegedly cashed fire department checks to obtain money for his personal benefit.

James Payne, the credit union’s director who killed himself days after federal subpoenas were served there, was to be a key witness in Yuknavich’s trial.

Law enforcement sources have previously told The Citizens’ Voice that the prosecutors’ main focus on the credit union is links between auto loans, Wilkes-Barre police officers and the city’s suspended towing contractor Leo Glodzik III, who was recently convicted on theft charges.

Copyright 2014 The Citizens’ Voice
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
All Rights Reserved

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