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Guilty Plea To Federal Charges By Wilkes-Barre Township Fire Chief

WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP — A fire chief in Luzerne County has agreed to plead guilty to federal theft charges and will resign from his position.

John Yuknavich, 51, is accused of failing to deposit thousands of dollars for the fire department and keeping it for himself.

The silence continues at the Wilkes-Barre Township volunteer fire department. No one is answering questions or returning phone calls, after prosecutors announced Chief John Yuknavich has been hit with federal

“Everybody in the township donates to the money and he just pretty much robbed everybody,” said Wilkes-Barre Township resident Bobbi Jo LaPointe.

Federal investigators took over the theft case from county prosecutors saying Yuknavich was responsible for depositing donations into bank accounts.

The chief was also in charge of accepting state aid and $3,500 payments from Wilkes-Barre Township every month to help with the mortgage and bills.

According to prosecutors, Yuknavich pocketed more than $40,000 for himself, upsetting township residents.

“Our safety rests in their hands, and now you don’t know who to trust,” LaPointe said.

As part of the guilty plea, Yuknavich must pay back $45,000 to the volunteer fire department and also resign as fire chief.

Carl Rensa lives next door to Yuknavich, calling him a good fire chief and a caring neighbor.

“We’re lucky to have a guy like that,” Rensa said. “Hey, he’s not the only one. You know that yourself. You see how many people are in trouble, with the fire departments and everybody else.”

Luzerne County prosecutors say they intend to withdraw their case now that the feds have filed charges.

We’ve tried contacting Wilkes-Barre Township officials but it’s still unclear when the chief will step down, who will be in charge next, and if Yuknavich could face any prison time.

9 comments

  • NOT_IN_THIS_AREA

    I DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW THE BUSINESSES (OR THE INSURANCE COMPANIES) IN THE TWP, ALLOW A VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPT TO PROTECT THERE PROPERTIES WHEN MOST OF THE TIME, THEY DON’T GET OUT AND ASHLEY OR HANOVER TWP OR EVEN THE CITY HAS TO GO IN THERE PLACE. IS THAT A LIABILITY… THE MAYOR MUST LIE THROUGH HIS TEETH, TELLING THEM WE HAVE A FIRE DEPT THAT IS RELIABLE TO BE THERE… I’D LIKE TO SEE HOW MANY OF THERE FIRE FIGHTER ARE CERTIFIED AT ALL, MAYBE 1 OR 2

  • jeff F

    Most volunteer FD’s are private corporations, and many are 501C3 corps – Charitable orgs). There are checks and balances in the form of frequent internal audits of the books by the members and usually once per year by an outside/unaffiliated accounting firm. This is how something like this is usually found.

  • LC

    How many times does money have to go missing before local organizations and businesses start implementing a system of over sight so these things don’t happen. It would be beneficial to all parties.

    • Adrienne

      I don’t know about here , but I grew up on Long Island (NY) and the volunteers do get pensions there….

    • LC

      There’s no pension, genius-they’re volunteers. But be sure to make up controversy while talking out of your behind because you’re bored.

      • j

        There is a program that Vol. FD’s can pay into to provide their firefighters with a pension. It’s not a lot of money but it is a way for the Fire dept to show their members that they appreciated the time they gave.

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