Duryea’s most notorious plumber, Joe Sekelsky, has been hit with six third-degree felonies and one first-degree misdemeanor in connection with his practice of winning people’s trust and slipping away with their money.
Last week, police in Pittston City and Wilkes-Barre Township separately filed charges against Sekelsky following complaints by two customers and one supplier who said they, collectively, lost $19,000 to the 50-year-old owner of Sekelsky Plumbing and Heating.
Since early this year, I have received emails from readers reporting Sekelsky has taken tens of thousands of dollars in advance for work he never did and products he never delivered. Instead, he offered excuses ranging from the mundane – like parts and equipment shortages — to the heart-rending, such as life-altering infections, amputations and loved ones’ deaths.
Until now, nobody has held Sekelsky accountable for the skullduggery he has engaged in throughout Luzerne County, where he continues to practice despite more than a decade of lost civil suits and unpaid judgments.
Those who have sued Sekelsky and won, such as Vicki and Ed Brzoza, of Pittston, have learned the arm of the law is short when it comes to collecting their $3,163 judgment.
The Brzozas hired Sekelsky in 2013 to work on their home in Pittston.
“We paid him up front,” Vicki told me. “He did some work and then he stopped coming and did not finish the job.”
Not only that, but the work Sekelsky actually did failed inspection, he never obtained permits for the job and he installed the wrong parts and equipment, according to the police affidavit.
“He has not paid one dime toward the money he owes us,” Vicki said.
The attorney general’s Bureau of Consumer Protection revoked Sekelsky’s state registration and has filed suit to put him out of business and make him pay restitution, but until the BCP obtains a court order, that tiger has no teeth, either.
In their dogged quest for justice, the Brzozas turned to the Pittston City police. It so happened they were not alone and were joined by R.J. Walker Plumbing Supply, which reported that, in February, Sekelsky paid for $8,709 in merchandise with rubber checks. The police obtained a search warrant on Sekelsky’s checking account and found evidence he knew the checks would bounce, according to the officer’s affidavit.
Last Tuesday, Sekelsky appeared before District Judge Alexandra Kokura-Kravitz on two felony theft charges, two other felony charges involving lying to get money and the misdemeanor bad-check charge. The judge released him on $15,000 unsecured bail, which means he signed an agreement to be liable for that amount if he doesn’t show up for a June 29 hearing. He didn’t have to put up a dime.
Let’s make sure we’re clear: Sekelsky faces four felony charges, each carrying up to a seven-year sentence and a $15,000 fine, and a misdemeanor carrying up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
He is charged with deliberately breaking his contracts and writing bad checks, yet the court lets him go on his signature? What has his signature been worth so far?
Sekelsky is also scheduled to appear in court Tuesday on two felony charges filed by Wilkes-Barre Township police after Marcy Smith reported she paid him almost $5,000 for a heating and air conditioning system he never installed.
For these two charges, theft and fraudulent or deceptive business practices, Sekelsky, if convicted, will face up to 14 years in prison and $30,000 in fines.
Smith, a nurse practitioner who has known Sekelsky 10 years and once considered him a friend, says she’ll attend Tuesday’s hearing conducted by District Judge Michael G. Dotzel.
“The judge should make him pay bail,” Smith said. “Innocent people have had to put money up and not get anything for it. If he can’t put up his money, he should go to jail.”