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.