August 6, 2011
Lackawanna County chief deputy coroner faces arson-for-hire charges
by Steve McConnell
The Lackawanna County chief deputy coroner faces felony arson charges after he tried to pay an undercover trooper $40,000 to set fire to a building so he could collect insurance proceeds, state police at Dunmore said Friday.
Troopers arrested Joseph A. Swoboda, 111 Estate Drive, Waverly Twp., on Friday on charges of arson, solicitation to commit arson, arson for insurance purposes and one misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment.
Mr. Swoboda, who was appointed deputy coroner in 1992 by former Coroner William Sweeny, met with an undercover trooper on Monday at JJ Bridjes restaurant in South Abington Twp., indicating that he "wanted to solicit someone to commit an act of arson on a property that he owned," state police said in a news release issued late Friday afternoon.
Mr. Swoboda offered $40,000 to the undercover trooper, adding that as an "act of good faith," he would pay $1,000 on Friday at another meeting at the restaurant, followed by $5,000 on a separate date, state police said.
Mr. Swoboda allegedly said he wanted the fire to look like an accident and wished to collect the insurance money.
The state police news release did not indicate the address of where the alleged arson was to occur. The release only makes mention of it as a "property" Mr. Swoboda owns, and "that there was no one currently living in the apartments inside the building."
Mr. Swoboda allegedly told the undercover trooper that it was "very important" that the fire was set when he was out of town on vacation later this month, state police said.
The undercover trooper arrested Mr. Swoboda outside the Davies and Jones Funeral Chapel, 135 S. Main Ave., in Scranton, at about 2:30 p.m. on Friday.
Mr. Swoboda was taking the undercover trooper to the funeral home and was attempting to unlock and enter the front door of the building when he was taken into custody by state police.
Efforts to reach state police spokesman Trooper Bill Satkowski, Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola and First Assistant District Attorney Gene Talerico were unsuccessful Friday.
A criminal complaint in the case could not be obtained Friday.
Coroner Tim Rowland said Mr. Swoboda was suspended without pay Friday after he received notice of the charges from the district attorney's office.
"He's suspended until further notice pending the outcome of the charges," Mr. Rowland said.
Mr. Swoboda was chief deputy coroner under former Coroner Joseph Brennan, who retired from the post early this year
"I'm disappointed for sure, and surprised," said Mr. Brennan, who was appointed chief deputy coroner in 1992 by Mr. Sweeny. "It's just unfortunate."
Mr. Swoboda is listed as president of Davies & Jones Funeral Chapel, Inc., 135 S. Main Ave., in a filing on the state Department of State website. Robert C. Jones was listed as treasurer.
On the funeral home's own website, Mr. Jones is listed as president and supervisor.
Mr. Jones could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Swoboda was arraigned before Lackawanna County Judge Vito P. Geroulo and placed in Lackawanna County Prison in lieu of $50,000 bail, where he remained Friday night.
Courtesy of the Scranton Times Tribune.