Last updated: April 02. 2014 11:35PM - 1968 Views
By - rdupuis@civitasmedia.com

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WILKES-BARRE — Evidence from search warrants may be used against embattled Wilkes-Barre Township Fire Chief John Yuknavich at trial, Luzerne County Judge Michael Vough ruled Wednesday, finding they were obtained legally.

In a case filed last year, prosecutors allege Yuknavich, 50, took more than $40,000 from 2008 through 2011 by bringing $3,500 checks to the Wilkes-Barre City Employee’s Federal Credit Union, where the fire department account — as well as a personal account for Yuknavich — existed, but often depositing only part of the checks, taking some or all of the $3,500 as cash.

Vough denied a request by defense attorney Barry Dyller to suppress the warrants.

The warrants were to obtain documents from two accounts at the credit union, as well as at Franklin Security Bank and Pennstar Bank. One of the credit union accounts was maintained by Yuknavich, but the others were not, according to court documents.

Among his conclusions, Vough noted:

• Yuknavich has no standing to suppress warrants related to the accounts that were not in his name, having no personal privacy interest in them.

• Yuknavich does have a personal privacy interest in the account he personally maintained, but sufficient probable cause existed to support the warrant, Vough wrote.

• Vough rejected a defense argument that the failure to include an expiration date on the warrant for Yuknavich’s personal account justified its suppression, writing that such a failure “was at most a technical violation of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure.”

This is one of two criminal cases pending against the chief.

Also outstanding is a 2011 theft case in which Yuknavich is accused of stealing $11,865 in multiple withdrawals from the fire department’s accounts and using the department’s Sam’s Club credit card for personal use.

That case is on hold as prosecutors await the outcome of an appeal against a ruling by Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr. prohibiting the use of a Nov. 8, 2008, bank withdrawal and 15 bounced checks.

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