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Correctional Officer Admits Extortion

September 2, 2016 GMT

SCRANTON — A Luzerne County correctional officer accused of accepting cash and drugs in exchange for giving prisoners special perks pleaded guilty Friday to federal extortion and witness tampering charges. John Stachokus, 41, of Plains Township, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Malachy E. Mannion. He faces a maximum of 40 years in prison at sentencing. Federal prosecutors charged Stachokus last month, and a plea agreement filed along with the charges said prosecutors agreed not to charge him with further crimes stemming from his conduct related to the charges. The charges against Stachokus — who gained national attention in 2002 when he unsuccessfully sued an ex-girlfriend to prevent her from having an abortion — have landed him on unpaid administrative leave pending the results of an internal county investigation and a dismissal hearing. According to the charges, Stachokus, who worked at the work-release center, took cash and other gifts, including cocaine, in exchange for giving the prisoners special treatment. One confidential informant who got a job in construction with a real estate business in Nanticoke told investigators that his family was having financial problems because of his incarceration and that Stachokus was aware of his troubles, according to the charges. The informant told investigators that he paid cash to Stachokus on numerous occasions in exchange for unauthorized furloughs — which are generally only given for religious, medical or “extraordinary reasons” — so he would have more time out of the jail to work, the charges allege. The charges also allege that in exchange for the cash, Stachokus agreed to keep quiet about other arrangements for special treatment the informant had with another employee at the jail. The other employee is not identified in the charges. Stachokus’s conduct took place from November 2013 and February, the same period during which another guard, Louis Elmy, accepted cash, liquor and assistance in obtaining crack cocaine from work-release inmates in exchange for special privileges and perks, according to authorities. Elmy, the former president of the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board, pleaded guilty to federal extortion and weapons charges in July and is awaiting sentencing. A sentencing date for Stachokus was not immediately set. 570-821-2058, @cvjimhalpin