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Court briefs

April 18. 2013 11:48PM

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WILKES-BARRE — A Luzerne County jury on Wednesday and Thursday heard testimony regarding fire investigations from a number of experts who took the witness seat in the second and third days of a trial being held for a Berwick woman charged with setting fire to a Conyngham building in September 2010.

Gail Schneider, 44, is charged with six counts of arson and one count of criminal mischief relating to the September 2010 fire at the Lantern Lane Complex along South Main Street in the borough.

Assistant District Attorney Shannon Crake called investigators from the state police as well as an insurance investigator to testify about the cause and origin of the fire that caused approximately $1.5 million in property damaged and leveled the apartment and building complex.

Jurors saw video of the blaze and scene, as well as photos of the building after the fire was put out. To stay on topic with fire investigations, defense attorney William Miele was permitted to call his expert on the subject, who said the fire was not intentionally set.

Testimony will continue this morning. Judge David Lupas is presiding over the case.

WILKES-BARRE — A Luzerne County senior judge said he will soon decide whether he’ll permit an attorney from representing his daughter in a fatal hit-and-run case.

Senior Judge Charles Brown on Wednesday heard arguments in the case of Megan Panowicz, 27, charged in connection with the Aug. 27, 2008, death of Sharon Shaughnessy, who was killed on Wyoming Avenue in Kingston when she was reportedly struck by three vehicles, on of which was allegedly driven by Panowicz, of Forty Fort.

Last month, Deputy Attorney General Clarke Madden filed court papers asking that Panowicz’s father, Attorney Robert Panowicz, be prohibited from representing his daughter. Robert Panowicz, Madden said, cannot effectively represent his daughter because he is her father and made statements to him about the incident shortly after.

A trial in the case is tentatively scheduled for June 3. Brown said he will make a ruling on the request, and another, after attorneys submit additional court papers.

SCRANTON — Joseph M. Yesvetz, 57, of Hazleton, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday before U.S. District Judge Robert D. Mariani to making a false claim for benefits under the Department of Labor’s Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP), the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced.

According to U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith, EEOICP is meant to compensate individuals who suffer work-related health conditions due to exposure to toxic substances in the work place. Yesvetz filed a claim on behalf of his father who died in 2001 after working at a beryllium plant and who allegedly suffered from chronic beryllium disease.

Yesvetz admitted that he lied on the claim form by failing to report his prior conviction in 2008 for mail fraud in connection with his receipt of over $88,000 in state workers’ compensation benefits meant for his deceased father. Yesvetz received $150,000 in April 2012 as a result of his false claim under the EEOICP.

The case was investigated by the Department of Labor Inspector General’s Office and is assigned to Senior Litigation Counsel Bruce Brandler for prosecution. A sentencing hearing is pending.

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