WILKES-BARRE — Quickly and quietly, former Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority Executive Director Fred DeSanto pleaded guilty Thursday morning to one felony count of diversion of services.
The 64-year-old Pittston resident appeared before Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough, admitting by his plea that he used WVSA staff to do work for the District 16 Little League, for which he was a district director, while they were on the clock for the authority.
His crime cost the authority more than $30,000, investigators said.
The charge carries a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment, but prosecutors said DeSanto may apply for admission to the county’s Intermediate Punishment Program prior to his sentencing on April 24.
A presentence investigation report is due by April 17.
DeSanto had been executive director of WVSA since 1998. He was placed on administrative leave, with pay, by the WVSA Board of Directors on Aug. 15, 2012.
DeSanto retired on Aug. 27, 2012, from the public agency just before he had been scheduled to be interviewed by the WVSA board about the allegations. He held other positions in WVSA’s administration for 18 years.
DeSanto earned a salary of $116,084 when he retired, according to the authority’s finance department.
DeSanto’s attorney, Frank W. Nocito, said his client has made restitution.
According to an affidavit, Detective R. Gary Capitano of the District Attorney’s Office interviewed 57 WVSA employees. Based upon Capitano’s investigation, it was determined that 22 employees had performed Little League work under DeSanto’s direction, from 2004 through 2012, court documents say.
“This practice had been occurring for over 20 years, but (Capitano) was limited to an eight-year statutory limit,” Capitano wrote.
The sanitary authority’s service area includes 35 municipalities in Luzerne County from Newport Township to the Pittston area.
Thursday did see one departure: The commonwealth moved to strike the phrase “to his own benefit” from the charge against DeSanto, with Nocito agreeing to the change.
DeSanto was released on $20,000 unsecured bail after his arrest in September. He remains free on bail pending sentencing.