Former Wilkes-Barre Police Officers Plead Guilty To Conspiring To Cheat Credit Union

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Former Wilkes-Barre police officer Tino Ninotti signed his brother’s name on loan documents to secure a loan from the Wilkes-Barre City Employees Federal Credit Union, a federal prosecutor said Monday.

Ninotti’s brother, Dino Ninotti, was in Afghanistan when the document was signed in March 2012, U.S. Assistant Attorney Michelle Olshefski said.

Ninotti, 36, of Hunlock Township, and former city police officer Jason Anthony, 35, of Wilkes-Barre, were before U.S. District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo to plead guilty to conspiring to commit bank fraud.

Caputo accepted their guilty pleas after quizzing the two former officers that they understood they gave up their appellate rights.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/home_top-local-news/153153683/

Pack Of Teens Allegedly Hurl Rocks At Vehicle, Threaten Driver After Vandalizing South Wilkes-Barre Business

WILKES-BARRE, PA — A pack of teenagers allegedly pelted a vehicle with a flurry of rocks before threatening the driver with a lead pipe, moments after the group vandalized a nearby South Wilkes-Barre business.

Steve Taren, owner of Wet Paint Printing & Design at 152 Horton St., said he recently witnessed a group of about 10 teenagers bending and ripping up about $2,000 worth of shrubs along the length of the building. Last year, Taren, 57, purchased and revitalized the 100-year-old abandoned woodworking warehouse to house the new location of his graphic and design business.

Taren said he had seen the teens in the neighborhood before and believed they attended Meyers High School.

Kimberly Rock, who at the time was picking up her son, Wet Paint employee Brian Casbeer, witnessed the vandalism and pursued the group on foot in an attempt to photograph them. One member of the group, who Rock said ranged from ages 8 to 18, appeared to be carrying a steel or lead pipe.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/153118080/

 

Motion To Make Leighton Pay ‘Gas-Gate’ Money Gets No Support At Council Meeting

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Thursday’s city council meeting featured one minute of agenda business followed by an hour-long free-for-all.

Council members, Mayor Tom Leighton, candidates in next month’s primary and members of the public sparred over long-standing hot topics — including a suggestion to sue Leighton to recover money Wilkes-Barre paid in fines for not documenting how city employees used city-owned gasoline.

First, council unanimously approved motions to suspend the city’s open container law for two upcoming downtown events: The Fine Arts Fiesta on May 14-17 in Public Square, and the Osterhout Free Library’s Rooftop Party at the Intermodal Transportation Center on Aug. 7.

The open-container suspensions “only apply to malted and brewed beverages and not to wine and liquors” and only to the sites and times of the planned events: The eastern corner of Public Square from 3 p.m. until close for the four-day Fine Arts Fiesta, and the rooftop and fourth floor of the transportation center’s parking garage, from 5 to 8 p.m., for the rooftop party.

Then the fireworks started with public comments in the packed council chamber.

Read more:

http://citizensvoice.com/news/motion-to-make-leighton-pay-gas-gate-money-gets-no-support-at-council-meeting-1.1869350

Wilkes University Breaks Ground On $1 Million Campus Gateway Project

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Wilkes University is on a mission.

The product of a 20-member committee, the university’s Gateway to the Future Strategic Plan was launched two years ago to stake out pathways for meeting future challenges.

That proposal took a literal spin Thursday, as university and elected officials broke ground on a $1 million walkway project to connect the campus with the heart of downtown Wilkes-Barre, the latest endeavor in the six-year plan to chisel a traditional residential campus out of the Diamond City’s urban landscape.

Within the last year, the university has pledged more than $30 million in upgrades to the campus, including a $33 million science center and an additional $3 million in renovations to the University Center at 169 S. Main St., the future site of the of the Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/home_top-local-news-news/153093061/Wilkes-launches-$1M-gateway

Luzerne County Officials Tour Historic Wilkes-Barre Train Station

Moments before a tour was to begin, Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority workers found two men dozing on sleeping bags inside Wilkes-Barre’s historic train station Tuesday afternoon.

The men were annoyed with the interruption at first, telling officials, “We’re napping.” They scurried away when workers ordered them out for trespassing. They were let off with a warning because they were homeless and insisted they had never been there before.

The tour was scheduled because officials are still trying to determine the structure’s fate a decade after prior county commissioners first discussed plans to save the former New Jersey Central train station at the corner of Market Street and Wilkes-Barre Boulevard.

The authority purchased the 6-acre property, including a strip mall, for $5.8 million in April 2006 using federal community development funds provided by prior county commissioners.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/home_top-local-news/153025164/Officials-tour-train-station

City Of Wilkes-Barre Partners With Florida-Based Management Company To Enforce Registry Of Blighted Properties

WILKES-BARRE, PA — City officials on Monday announced an agreement with a Florida-based management company to maintain a database of the city’s ballooning number of blighted properties. The database will also allow residents to submit locations of abandoned properties on the city’s website.

The partnership comes at no cost to taxpayers, said Andrew LaFratte, municipal affairs manager.

LaFratte said Community Champions, formed in 2008, will receive half of every $200 registration fee the city gets when a vacant property is registered. An ordinance enacted in 2010 initially proposed an incremental charge for vacant properties, ranging from $150 the first year to more than $5,000 for a property vacant more than 10 years.

Community Champions will be charged with establishing the database and populating it with parcel data. Once the tool is live, LaFratte said, city officials will be trained on it. LaFratte said the entire process will likely be completed within a month.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/153022937/Blight-registry-in-new-hands

Wilkes-Barre Police Investigating Shooting

WILKES-BARRE, PA — City police are at a residence on Monroe Street investigating a shooting this morning.

Police were alerted to the shooting when a man arrived by private vehicle at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital at approximately 10:20 a.m.

Police and city detectives wearing body armor are at the scene questioning witnesses and neighbors.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/breaking_news/152984712/

Homeless Man Charged With Homicide With Fatal Stabbing At Interfaith Heights Apartments

WILKES-BARRE, PA — City police charged a homeless man with fatally stabbing a homeless activist inside an apartment at Interfaith Heights earlier this year.

Matthew Vantine, 27, was charged with criminal homicide in the death of 53-year-old Bryan “Hippie” Hogan.

Hogan’s body was found inside his apartment on Jan. 30.

Vantine said he didn’t kill Hogan, saying “He was a good man.”

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/home_top/152959164/

Wilkes-Barre Residents Voice Concerns About Plan To Convert Sacred Heart Into 31-Unit Apartment Building

WILKES-BARRE, PA — A proposal to convert the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church and School into high-end apartments drew the ire of several North End residents at Wednesday’s Zoning Hearing Board meeting.

Philadelphia developer Hysni Syla, a current Kingston resident, said he “came here to invest” in potential development sites like the shuttered school and church at 601 N. Main St. The former closed in 2011 as shrinking membership and a drop in priests forced the Diocese of Scranton to close the doors of the century-old church.

The proposal would convert the school into 31 units, while renovating the church into an art studio and rectory into four additional apartment units.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/152948142/

Submissions For Wilkes-Barre Fine Arts Fiesta Due Saturday

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Wilkes-Barre’s 60th Fine Arts Fiesta “A Diamond in the Square” will once again bring a sense of culture and beauty to public square May 14-17.

Gary T. Womelsdorf, a board member and visual arts chairman, is busy preparing for the event’s adult and student juried art exhibitions and wants to remind artists that delivery of artwork is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday at Fiesta Central, Midtown Village, 41 S. Main St. near Katana Restaurant.

Any artist living within a radius of 100 miles is eligible to compete.

Artwork can be submitted and judged in six specific categories: crafts, graphics, paintings, photography, sculpture/construction and water color.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/home_top-local-news/152894100/

Turkey Hill Customers Question Safety In Wake Of Robberies

When Turkey Hill comes to mind, most people think of flavorful ice cream and sweet iced tea. But in Wilkes-Barre, many mention the recent spike in robberies at the company’s stores before thinking of their signature snacks.

Since January 2014, city police have responded to at least 22 Turkey Hill robberies, 13 of which occurred in the last four months.

Frequent customers have not abandoned these stores, but some have questioned the safety during late-night hours.

Lisa Cummings of Mountain Top often visits the Turkey Hill on North Pennsylvania Avenue after work, but said she would probably not go to the store at 3 a.m.

Read more:

http://citizensvoice.com/news/turkey-hill-customers-question-safety-in-wake-of-robberies-1.1862265

Arts Gallery Could Make Way For Downtown Wilkes-Barre Market

WILKES-BARRE, PA — A market may be coming to downtown Wilkes-Barre soon.

Arts Seen Gallery is being asked to move out of space at 21 Public Square to make way for City Market and Cafe, said Kim Kulagina, the volunteer operations manager of the art gallery, and Tamara Pilger, a stained glass artist at the gallery. Kulagina said landlord Rob Finlay, president of Humford Equities, told them the art gallery had to leave for City Market to move in and the market is awaiting a liquor license.

A source active with the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber, speaking on the condition of anonymity, also said City Market and Cafe plans to open in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Discussions about City Market and Cafe opening downtown have been ongoing for a while and officials were looking for a suitable place, the source said.

City Market and Cafe, which has another location at Linden Street and Adams Avenue in downtown Scranton, offers eat-in and take-out prepared foods, a deli, bakery, grocery, dairy, frozen food, fresh produce, customized sandwiches and pizza and a vast selection of beer.

Read more:

http://citizensvoice.com/news/arts-gallery-could-make-way-for-downtown-w-b-market-1.1861722

In Focus: Church Reaching Out To Sherman Hills To Be Community Partner In Wilkes-Barre

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Is there hope for Sherman Hills?

The bigger question — Is there hope for the City of Wilkes-Barre?

The Restored Church on North Franklin Street will do its part to try to revive the city’s morale and its pride, and eliminate its fear.

The church will hold an event — “I Love My City” — on Saturday, April 25 in the Sherman Hills apartment complex parking lot. All residents of the city are welcome with their children. The church hopes the event will serve as a catalyst for similar events to be held.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/152853433/

Deadly 2013 Lands Wilkes-Barre On ‘Murder Capital’ List

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The city’s bloody 2013 has placed it on a list of the Top 30 “Murder Capitals in America.”

The 13 homicides that took place in Wilkes-Barre made for the deadliest year in city history. The city was ranked 18th on the list.

NeighborhoodScout, an information website which compiles data on neighborhoods and cities throughout the country, used FBI numbers on homicides to create a list of cities with the highest murder rates. The report lists Wilkes-Barre as having 12 murders and does not include a case involving an accidental shooting, which the FBI classified as involuntary manslaughter.

The report says that until recently, major cities ranked among the dominating murder capitals, but this list is “populated mostly by middle-sized cities as well as smaller cities in close proximity to larger ones.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/deadly-2013-lands-w-b-on-murder-capital-list-1.1861214

With Crime On Their Minds, Concerned Residents Again Press Wilkes-Barre City Council On Rash Of Violence

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The topic won’t fizzle out.

Another city council meeting saw yet another gauntlet of pleas from concerned citizens about Wilkes-Barre’s recent rash of violence.

Council members spent most of Thursday’s hour-long meeting assuring residents that police and city administration were doing everything within their power to squash a three-week-long crime wave that produced six shootings, two deaths and six other injuries.

Council Chairman Mike Merritt conceded things will get worse before they get better.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/152836901/Residents-press-council-about-crime

Gallup: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Well-Being Could Be Worse, But Not Much

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton area’s overall well-being could be worse, but not much.

The metropolitan area ranked 94th overall out of 100 communities in the U.S. in Gallup opinion poll “State of American Well-Being: 2014 Community Well-Being Rankings.”

The survey issued Tuesday compares how people feel about and experience their daily lives in five areas:

■ Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goal.

■ Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life.

Read more:

http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/gallup-scranton-wb-well-being-could-be-worse-but-not-much-1.1860711

Wilkes-Barre Man Charged With Ransacking Interfaith Heights Apartment After Body Removed

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Dominick Meininger told police he’s no snitch.

Meininger, 19, allegedly admitted to stealing wine and prescription medications from an apartment at Interfaith Heights after the tenant was found dead in the residence on March 10. But Meininger, of East Northampton Street, denied he had stolen jewelry and a television, according to charges filed.

Meininger was arraigned Wednesday by District Judge Martin Kane on charges of burglary, possessing instruments of crime and theft. He was jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of $20,000.

The alleged burglary was not the first incident involving Meininger at Interfaith Heights on Coal Street.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/152813436/

Former Police Chief Tony George Urges Mayor Thomas Leighton To Address Wilkes-Barre’s Current State Of “Violence And Lawlessness”

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Citing a “crisis of lawlessness,” former Police Chief Tony George on Monday pressed Mayor Thomas Leighton to restore law and order to the city of Wilkes-Barre in the wake of one of its most vicious weekends to date.

George, a city councilman and Democratic candidate for Wilkes-Barre mayor, urged Leighton in a press release to address the state of public safety by implementing citywide saturation patrols with an emphasis in “the most troubled neighborhoods,” including South Wilkes-Barre, North End and the Heights.

Over six days, two people have been killed and five others seriously injured in five separate shootings.

Show of force

During a press conference at police headquarters Monday afternoon, Leighton said patrols have been ongoing since 2013 and will continue as long as there is violent crime in Wilkes-Barre.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/152763481/

Violence Continues With Another Shooting In Wilkes-Barre

WILKES-BARRE, PA — City police said a man was found with a gunshot wound in the area of 247 S. Welles St. just before 1:30 a.m. Monday.

Police did not say where the man, whose name was not released, suffered the gunshot wound. The victim was transported to a local hospital for treatment, police said.

No further information was released.

The victim is the seventh person to be shot in the city within five days. Two of those shootings turned fatal.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/152759001/

Man Found shot To Death In Wilkes-Barre Residence

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Three shootings. Three days. Two dead.

After more than six months without a gunfire-related homicide in Wilkes-Barre, city police investigated three separate shootings this week — two of them hours apart on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, a vigil in support of non-violence is planned for Public Square tonight.

The latest investigation concerns the shooting death of Peter Bielecki Jr., 49, at his home at 70 Carey Ave.

Read more:

http://citizensvoice.com/news/man-found-shot-to-death-in-w-b-residence-1.1858235