Former head of Pennsylvania redevelopment authority convicted of extortion, bribery counts

Associated Press

The former head of a western Pennsylvania city's redevelopment authority has been convicted of two counts each of bribery and extortion.

Ronald Repak, 63, of Richland Township, wrongly extorted a new roof for his home and construction work that benefited his son's business from contractors who also did business with the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, a federal court jury found Thursday.

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The jury, which deliberated about three hours, rejected a third pair of bribery and extortion charges stemming from tickets to Pittsburgh Steelers games and other events that federal prosecutors said Repak demanded from vendors.

"We're very pleased with the jury's decision," U.S. Attorney David Hickton said in a statement.

Defense attorney Alexander Lindsay Jr. said Repak may appeal and the conviction has ruined a valuable public servant.

"I think it is a great loss to the Johnstown community," Lindsay said. "I believe he was a great asset to the community."

Repak testified that he wanted to pay for the contracting work but was never billed for it. Prosecutors told the jury he "buried" the cost for those jobs in contracts for legitimate redevelopment projects.

But Lindsay said the contractors were trying to curry favor for their businesses and weren't forced into it by Repak.

"These are not people who went to the FBI and said, 'I've been shaken down,'" Lindsay said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Haines reminded the jury during her closing arguments that the contractors risked damaging their reputations by testifying, even though they weren't targets of the investigation. She noted one contractor testified, "I'm doing this even though I know it could be detrimental to myself and my company."

Repak must return for sentencing Dec. 8. The maximum penalty he faces is 60 years in jail and a $1 million fine, but his sentence will likely be much less given his lack of a criminal record.