HANOVER TWP. — Former Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority Executive Director Fred DeSanto arrived at magisterial district court Friday wearing handcuffs and being escorted by Luzerne County detective lieutenants Gary Capitano and Daniel Yursha.
He left the courtroom a free man, released under $20,000 unsecured bail.
DeSanto, 63, of Norman Street, Pittston Township, and his attorney, Frank Nocito, had no comment on charges he allegedly had the authority’s employees perform work for District 16 Little League and the Pittston Township Recreation Association events from 2004 through 2012.
Capitano in his investigation alleges Sanitary Authority employees performed work while on the clock for WVSA over a span of nearly 20 years, but the statute of limitations restricted the probe to eight years.
Since DeSanto was represented by an attorney at the preliminary arraignment before District Judge Joseph Halesey, he waived his right to a preliminary hearing, sending the third-degree felony charge of diversion of services to Luzerne County Court.
DeSanto served as executive director of the WVSA since 1998 until he abruptly retired on Aug. 27, 2012, shortly before he was scheduled to be interviewed by the authority’s board regarding the allegations. He earned a salary of $116,084 when he retired, according to the authority’s finance department.
He previously served in other capacities in the authority’s administration for 18 years.
According to the criminal complaint filed by Capitano:
Employees at WVSA approached Human Resource Manager Willard Oliphant, a former state police captain, with allegations DeSanto had been directing personnel to attend and work District 16 Little League games and events while on the clock for WVSA.
Oliphant determined there was sufficient information that the allegations might be accurate and contacted WVSA solicitor William Finnegan, who also serves as an assistant district attorney in Luzerne County.
A meeting was held with District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis on Sept. 4, 2012, at which Capitano was assigned to investigate after the state Office of Attorney General determined there was no conflict of interest as long as Finnegan had no part in the investigation and prosecution.
The investigation involved the questioning of 57 WVSA employees, of which 22 employees allegedly performed work for the Little League and the Pittston Township Recreation Association. DeSanto also used the WVSA postage machine to mail Little League materials, an average of 165 mailings per year, during the same time at a cost of $449, the complaint alleges.
A review by the state Office of Auditor General allegedly revealed the total value of employees’ time and benefits on projects not related to WVSA and unauthorized postage was $30,455.78 from 2004 to 2012, according to the complaint.
A news release from the Sanitary Authority on Thursday stated DeSanto’s accrued benefits were frozen.
“These monies are being held and will be applied towards any restitution which is due to the WVSA,” the news release states. “If there is a shortfall in restitution, the WVSA will pursue recouping the balance of restitution, if any, through the recently filed criminal case.”