The FBI has opened its own investigation into the developing scandal in Old Forge.
Two of the men who have been charged in the scandal were in Lackawanna County court Wednesday, where prosecutors revealed that federal investigators are now involved.
Former Old Forge firefighter Walter Chiavacci and Old Forge Police Chief Larry Semenza both gave up their right to their preliminary hearings in county court. For Semenza, the decision to forgo his hearing was partly because he is now the center of an FBI investigation and could face federal charges.
Semenza walked in to Lackawanna County court prepared to hear testimony from his alleged victim, a 23-year-old woman who was a teenager when, she said, she and the police chief had a sexual relationship.
Semenza’s first court hearing since his arrest only lasted about five minutes and his alleged victim didn’t get to say her piece.
“The Commonwealth’s first witness would have been the victim, other than that, we had several people prepared to testify depending on how the hearing went, where it lead us,” said Deputy District Attorney Jennifer McCambridge.
Semenza’s decision to give up his hearing came as a surprise to prosecutors, who announced in court that he is now being investigated by the FBI and U.S. Attorney.
Semenza’s attorney said that is one of the reasons why he wanted to hold off on hearing the evidence county prosecutors have collected so far.
“They’ve indicated that there are other matters and we’d rather address, issues collectively and engage in a good faith dialogue with the government rather than have piece meal litigation,” said defense attorney David Solfanelli.
Officials from the Lackawanna County district attorney’s office would not say why the FBI has opened its own case, or what the U.S. Attorney is investigating Semenza for, but prosecutors did say the Old Forge police chief could face more charges.
“We continue to have an open dialogue with all of the other parties, we continue to share information, and, as with any case, we always try to collaborate with anyone who’s working on it and we will continue to do so with this case and anything else that comes around,” McCambridge added.
County prosecutors have not said what those additional charges may be or when they may be filed, but in court Wednesday prosecutors made an agreement with Semenza to speed up their investigation.
Former Old Forge firefighter Walter Chiavacci, who is also accused in the sex abuse scandal, gave up his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday morning.