As sentencing nears, Munchak is hospitalized

By Joe McDonald (Staff Writer)

With his sentencing set for Monday, former Lackawanna County Commissioner A.J. Munchak has been admitted to a hospital after experiencing dizziness and shortness of breath.

As he sat slumped in a chair by his hospital bed Friday afternoon at Regional Hospital of Scranton, the former Mercy Hospital, Mr. Munchak looked haggard.

“I’m on the mend,” Mr. Munchak said, as a hospital monitor beeped.

Mr. Munchak, a 65-year-old man with a husky build and an undisclosed history of medical problems, is expected to be discharged over the weekend, said Chris Powell, a Scranton lawyer who is one of the attorneys representing Mr. Munchak.

“He’s doing fine,” Mr. Powell said. Mr. Munchak was admitted Thursday. Mr. Munchak, who is scheduled to be sentenced Monday on public corruption charges with former Commissioner Robert Cordaro, went to the hospital because “he felt a little dizzy” and was short of breath, Mr. Powell said.

Mr. Powell said Mr. Munchak’s “heart is fine,” though his medical condition “could be life-threatening.”

Asked if Mr. Munchak’s medical problems might delay his sentencing, Mr. Powell said, “Our intention is to be there.”

A federal jury found Mr. Munchak guilty of eight of the 21 charges, including extortion. Mr. Cordaro was found guilty of 18 of the 33 counts against him, including extortion, racketeering and money laundering. Both say they’re innocent.

Prosecutors are seeking a 15-year prison sentence for Mr. Munchak, a University of Scranton graduate with a degree in accounting, who has recently been diagnosed with a medical condition, the U.S. attorney’s office said in court papers.

Besides the prison sentence, the prosecutors are seeking a $100,000 fine for Mr. Munchak and restitution of $1.15 million to the County of Lackawanna Transportation Center and $20,762 to the IRS.

One of the biggest drivers in determining the total points assigned to Mr. Cordaro and Mr. Munchak is the approximately $1 million the federal government pumped into a project to build a bus and rail terminal on Lackawanna Avenue in downtown Scranton. After years of discussion, the intermodal transportation center is still in the planning stages.

It became part of the case against Mr. Cordaro and Mr. Munchak when a kickback scheme surfaced involving Highland Associates, the architectural firm that got the job to design the plans for about $1 million after another company, L. Robert Kimball & Associates, was replaced.

The Federal Transit Administration ordered COLTS in 2008 to repay more than $907,000 after finding the Highland contract violated the federally mandated process for seeking proposals for projects involving federal funds. COLTS later ditched the Highland architectural plans.

Don Kalina, a principal of Highland, paid $60,000 to Mr. Munchak and $30,000 to Mr. Cordaro.

Testimony at the trial revealed Mr. Cordaro called Mr. Kalina to thank him for paying off Mr. Munchak.

Contact the writer: jmcdonald@timesshamrock.com

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/as-sentencing-nears-munchak-is-hospitalized-1.1263708#ixzz1l2hdoV2U

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