Fire Chief Ordered to Trial on Theft Charges

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A volunteer fire chief in Luzerne County will face theft charges in county court.

Monday morning a district judge ruled there is enough evidence to send Wilkes-Barre Township Fire Chief John Yuknavich to trial for allegedly mishandling more than $11,000 intended for the fire department.

Yuknavich faces charges of theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and access device fraud in Luzerne County court.

His attorney said all those charges are false.

Prosecutors said between 2008 and 2010 Yuknavich withdrew thousands of dollars from the fire department’s bank account and put it in his own personal account. They also said Yuknavich used money from the fire department’s account to buy items from Sam’s Club for his own personal use.

“The bottom line is he can’t account for the money and chief of the fire department, treasurer of the volunteer fire relief association, the buck stops with him. He can`t account for the money,” said Assistant District Attorney Shannon Crake.

Prosecuting attorneys said Yuknavich shopped at Sam`s Club locally as well as others in Pennsylvania and New Jersey using the fire department’s account and bought items that have nothing to do with the fire department, such as children’s clothes and feminine hygiene products. The defense team argues there’s no proof those items were not bought with cash, and there’s no proof john Yuknavich was the one who bought those items.

“There`s no evidence against Mr. Yuknavich. There’s zero evidence he took any money. It’s an extremely weak case for the commonwealth,” said defense attorney Barry Dyller.

People who followed the case said if Yuknavich is guilty, he needs to pay.

“It’s about time. He’s a putz. I think if you’re going to stand there and defend what you did for stealing money from a fire department that can use it I think you need to pay it back and go sit your butt in jail,” said Holly Krommes of Wilkes-Barre.

“I think justice will be served and I believe jail time is supposed to be served for anyone else who supposedly did this so I think they will get what they got coming,” said Jennifer Kuzminski of Hanover Township.

Unless Yuknavich and prosecutors work out a plea deal, it will be up to a jury to decide if he’s guilty of mishandling close to $12,000 intended for the Wilkes-Barre Township Volunteer Fire Department.