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Veteran State Sen. Ray Musto charged with taking kickbacks

Published November 24. 2010 05:00PM

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A veteran Democratic state senator from northeastern Pennsylvania was indicted Tuesday - a week before his retirement - and accused of taking cash payments and other gifts in return for help in his position as a government official.

Sen. Ray Musto, of Pittston, was charged with bribery, wire fraud, mail fraud and making false statements to FBI agents for what prosecutors said included $25,000 in cash and a "stream of benefits" from a contractor that were designed to get him to push for state funding that would help the company.

The 81-year-old also was accused of taking $3,000 from another person connected to municipal authorities in northeastern Pennsylvania. Prosecutors said payment was an after-the-fact reward for his help getting loans and grants for the municipal authorities from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Neither the contractor nor the person with ties to the authorities was named.

Musto said he was eager to fight the allegations.

"Oh, you bet I am," he said in a brief phone interview. "I want my day in court, and the jury will decide."

His lawyer, Jack Riley, issued a statement saying Musto "has never wavered from his dedication to the people he has served while in office."

"We are confident, after the jury sees all the facts and understands the senator's impeccable record of public service, that the jury will conclude the senator has done nothing wrong," Riley wrote.

The indictment said that Musto had a company perform renovations at a property he owned in 2006 and was billed about $48,000. He paid for the work, but the company later returned $25,000 in cash, the indictment said. It also charges that Musto received $10,000 more in repairs from the company, along with holiday gifts he did not report on state financial disclosure forms.

Musto had previously, in his position as state senator, advocated for the company to get grants from state agencies, the indictment said.

Also, the indictment charges that Musto lied to FBI agents about some of the payments.

Musto was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1971 to fill the unexpired term of his late father, James Musto. He spent a term in the U.S. House of Representatives in the early 1980s and then won election to the state Senate in 1982.

In January, when he announced he would not seek another term, Musto said his legislative accomplishments included creation of the state's curbside recycling program, a law regarding hazardous waste spill cleanup, the 1999 Growing Greener environmental law and establishment of Nescopeck State Park.

He will be succeeded in office by Democratic state Rep. John Yudichak, who won a three-way contest on Nov. 2.

Musto served with the Army in the Korean War, graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, is married and has four children.

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