Dennis Skosnik, the former chief deputy in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County Sheriff’s office, took bribes to help direct county business to his friends, forced underlings to donate to election campaigns, and advised a witness how to lie during a grand jury investigation, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Skosnik, 54, was sentenced yesterday to serve five years and three months in federal prison. He is the third officer from the sheriff’s department to be convicted in federal court on corruption charges in the last year.
U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said, “We are optimistic that today’s sentence will end the pay-to-play culture that has existed for decades in the Allegheny County sheriff’s office.” An investigation going back at least four years found widespread corruption in the sheriff’s office, in which officers forced deputies to contribute to Sheriff Pete DeFazio’s re-election campaign to receive better jobs. Those who didn’t donate were punished with bad shifts and fewer opportunities for overtime. Skosnik pleaded guilty five of the 12 counts against him: wire and mail fraud, bribery, money laundering, and tampering with a witness. A prosecutor said Skosnik “ran the sheriff’s office as a kleptocracy. People had to pay to play. Citizens had to pay to get jobs.”