Ronald W. Repak pleaded “not guilty” to six federal extortion and bribery charges Wednesday morning and was released on $10,000 unsecured bond.
The longtime executive director at Johnstown Redevelopment Authority is accused of accepting more than $22,000 in construction work and Steelers tickets from contractors in return for favorable treatment by the authority. The alleged offenses occurred over a four-month period in 2009.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith A. Pesto read the charges while Repak sat quietly with his wife, Linda, in U.S. District Court on Washington Street, just a few hundred feet from Repak’s former office in the Public Safety Building.
Repak, 62, of Gerry Lane in Richland Township, was ordered to surrender his passport and remove all guns from his home. The order requires him to get the court’s permission before traveling outside of western Pennsylvania.
Defense attorney Alexander H. Lindsay Jr. said Repak expects to have his case heard by a jury.
“He is anxious to defend himself on these charges,” Lindsay told reporters after the arraignment
Pesto outlined recommendations by the court’s pretrial services office, which included the $10,000 unsecured bond and passport revocation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie L. Haines asked that a travel restriction be included.
Pesto took time to be sure Repak understood his rights, such as being represented by counsel and to remain silent. He stressed that anything a defendant says to friends or family also can be used as evidence, and advised Repak to only discuss the case with his attorney.
“He’s the only person you should be talking to,” Pesto said. “I’ve never seen anybody better their position by breaking that rule.”
Repak followed that advice following the brief court session, allowing Lindsay to address reporters’ questions.
Lindsay stressed Repak’s career of public service.
“He has done a lot for this community,” Lindsay said.
If convicted on all six counts of the indictment, Repak faces up to 90 years in prison and a fine of $1.5 million.
He is charged with getting multiple tickets to Pittsburgh Steelers game from one contractor, a new roof put on his home by another contractor and building demolition and grading work for his son’s business by a third. The business is Evolution Gym on Bedford Street.
In each incident, Repak is charged with extortion under color of official right and with federal program bribery. The authority operates and pays its employees, in part, from federal grant funding, the indictment notes.
All of the alleged crimes occurred between Aug. 24 and Nov. 18 in 2009. There is a five-year statute of limitations on all the charges, the U.S. Attorney’s office confirmed. Therefore, the indictment was required before August of this year.
U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton told The Tribune-Democrat last week that the investigation is ongoing. Sources close to the case say more charges are expected.
“I have not been informed of any additional charges,” Lindsay said Wednesday.
Repak joined the authority in 1978 and held titles of real estate manager and project manager before being named executive director in January 1983. He replaced T. Fred Young, who resigned amid a bid-rigging scandal involving 1977 flood recovery funds.
The authority board fired Repak and administrative assistant Deborah Walters in February for double-dipping as private consultants on the former Johnstown Regional Technology Park development between 2004 and 2007 while leading the project for the authority. Repak was making $92,828 a year when he was terminated.
No charges have been filed against Walters.
Repak’s next court date has not been scheduled, but Lindsay was granted a deadline extension until March 10 for filing pretrial motions.
Randy Griffith is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/photogriffer57.