Chief considers legal action over rants
SHAMOKIN - Scott Binsack's recent YouTube video rants claiming corruption in Shamokin have prompted the city's police chief to pursue possible legal action.
In the past week, Binsack has recorded videos from what he says is an undisclosed location that he refers to as "Narnia" while he apparently hides out from pursuit of the state Board of Probation and Parole. It is in these videos that he makes claims against Police Chief Ed Griffiths and other city officials while also criticizing The News-Item. He appears angry and is nearly shouting while he rails against Griffiths and others.
He alleges Griffiths has conspired with the parole board to have him taken into custody without cause.
Griffiths said he's been aware of criticisms from Binsack on Facebook since August, but recent posts have included attacks against "dedicated committee members" of his annual Little Eddie Griffiths Pig Roast, held each year in memory of the chief's son, who died in 1994 from a brain tumor at age 12.
"I've been in contact with an attorney and I am strongly considering legal action against Mr. Binsack," Griffiths said Thursday.
The committee provides $750 scholarships each year to two local high school seniors who attend Penn State or the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport.
"No one ever questioned our committee's fund-raising efforts or financial accountability since we started the event in 1996," Griffiths said. "But now a convict who's been arrested for various crimes comes on Facebook and starts spreading downright lies. Everything he says is baseless."
Griffiths said it's easy for Binsack to hide behind Facebook.
"He's a cyber bully who got exposed in the newspaper for the crimes he committed," Griffiths said. "He claims everyone is corrupt. He did the same thing in Lackawanna County. It's the same story, only a different town."
Griffiths said he contacted Facebook to complain about Binsack's "ridiculous accusations," but was told the content did not violate its terms of service and that the comments are protected as free speech.
Binsack and his business partner, Steven Crone, created a "Something's Smokin' in Shamokin" Facebook page and related websites this summer and have produced two episodes of a show by the same name. They bill it as "America's hottest new reality TV series" on their website, although the shows are only available on the Internet. They list themselves as both the stars and executive producers.
"Something's Smokin' in Shamokin" episodes include interviews with local residents and some public officials, and intends to "expose the true corruption and life" in Shamokin, Coal Township and northeast and central Pennsylvania, according to the website.
Binsack first discussed going back to prison in a 48-minute video soliloquy titled "The Harassment Continues" released on YouTube and a number of other media platforms in late September. It showed Binsack in a leather chair in a dark room claiming rampant corruption in Shamokin.
"As of Monday, I could be sent to prison because of an alleged technicality with my agreement with the state," said Binsack in the video. "I want the public to know I may never walk out of that prison."
He later complained about an article in The News-Item concerning his criminal history, claiming a disclaimer posted with "The Harrassment Continues" video says he had successfully addressed the issue with the parole board.
A month later, however, he was listed on the parole board's "absconders wanted list." (See separate story.)
Trail of trouble
Binsack was once regarded as a skilled home builder, but his business in Clarks Summit, Mansion & Estates International LLC, fell apart under accusations of deception and unpaid debt.
An excavator who had dealt with Mansion and Estates, discussing the company's mounting problems in a 2007 interview, said Binsack could "talk a hound off a meat truck."
Those aware of Binsack's past as a home builder in Monroe County weren't surprised by the trouble in Clarks Summit. In 1999, Binsack was accused of taking money from several customers and not completing their homes. In 2001, he pleaded guilty to theft and bad check charges in Monroe County Court, spent three years in state prison and was ordered to pay $100,000 restitution.
He talked openly about his conviction in later years, contending he did nothing wrong. Binsack was also previously convicted of bad checks and fraud in New York state.
An investigative report by the Scranton Times-Tribune, a sister paper of The News-Item, exploring how the ex-con contractor was able to do business in Lackawanna County while shorting dozens of vendors, employees and clients, prompted a state legislator from that area to introduce the New Home Construction Consumer Protection Act, which was signed into law by then-Gov. Ed Rendell in 2008. It requires homebuilders to register with the state and disclose past convictions, and it created a new crime - home-improvement fraud.
In August 2007, Binsack, already imprisoned at the time, was charged in Lackawanna County with four counts of bad checks and one count of harassment for allegedly leaving threatening and suicidal messages on someone's cell phone.
He was in jail from June 2007 to February 2008 before posting $75,000 bail.
In January 2011, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) filed a federal tax lien against his former business for $219,653. Binsack was in the State Correctional Institution in Dallas at the time for violating his parole on his arrest in Lackawanna County.
The IRS is seeking federal unemployment tax and payroll taxes that the company failed to pay.
At the same time, he was facing a stack of civil lawsuits and judgments, including from Ford Motor Credit, which in 2010 had reinstated a lawsuit against Binsack for $14,106.