Run from law adds to Binsack's criminal past
SHAMOKIN - Scott J. Binsack, who U.S. marshals and state probation and parole officers continue to pursue as a parole absconder, has become a household name in the Shamokin area over a short period of time.
He moved to Shamokin sometime after his release from prison on parole in April 2011. People have been enthralled by the videos, including interviews of local residents and public officials, posted on his "Something's Smokin in Shamokin" website and Facebook page, created this summer, but are also concerned about his checkered past.
Years in prison
In New York state, Binsack, a homebuilder originally from Long Island, was convicted in 1999 of grand larceny for stiffing several businesses, including his attorney. 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 contends he did nothing wrong, blaming a near-fatal motorcycle crash in preventing him from building homes that led to the charges.
Binsack was paroled from state prison on Sept. 8, 2005, and, moved to the Scranton area, where he began framing homes for other builders. He launched Mansions & Estates International LLC in Clarks Summit with an ambitious marketing plan, but in time, he alienated suppliers and subcontractors as customer complaints and business problems mounted.
He was jailed in June 2007 on new bad-check charges, while he also faced civil litigation, a parole violation hearing and an investigation for insurance fraud. He posted bail early in 2008 and was scheduled to face trial on eight counts of bad checks and six counts of harassment, all misdemeanors. He operated as his own attorney in various proceedings in 2008.
In June 2010, he pleaded no contest to seven counts of writing bad checks and was immediately sentenced to time served. Soon after his sentencing and a period of house arrest, however, Binsack was back in state custody because the bad check charges constituted a violation of his parole from his sentence in Monroe County. In November 2010, he was recommitted for six months.
In early 2011, the Internal Revenue Service filed a federal tax lien against Binsack's former business for $219,653 in federal unemployment tax and payroll taxes that the company allegedly failed to pay. Meanwhile, civil lawsuits and judgments for unpaid goods totaling nearly $50,000 were piling up.
Largely in response to Binsack's offenses, a Scranton area legislator proposed the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell in 2008.
Following is a timeline of local events involving Binsack, starting earlier this year.
February through September: Binsack is listed as part of five property transfers in the city and Coal Township. While amounts were not listed for two of the purchases he made, the most expensive of the other three was $21,000.
Aug. 13: Binsack and business partner Steven Crone present their $13.5 million self-labeled "Investor Prospectus" at a Shamokin City Council meeting. They ask for the city's blessing in their effort to revitalize the area. Logos for S&S Capital Inc. and Hometown Revitalization Group LLC, companies reportedly owned by Crone, are shown on the cover, with an address of 131 S. Market St.
Aug. 20: In a News-Item story written by Dave Falchek (a reporter for the newspaper's sister newspaper, the (Scranton) Times-Tribune, who has reported since 2007 on Binsack's business interests and run-ins with the law), Michael Byrne, chief counsel for the Pennsylvania Securities Commission, said the agency had begun to review the prospectus. It refers to "membership interests" in $5,000 increments and calls the investments "units" rather than "shares," a distinction Byrne said hardly matters in defining a security and its subjection to law and proper registration. He acknowledged some securities are exempt from disclosure, including membership interests in a limited liability company, or LLC, an exemption Binsack would later say he and Crone were seeking. Binsack also said the prospectus circulated at the meeting was not complete, and that complete information would be provided to interested investors as requested.
But the prospectus and the commission's involvement were linked to Binsack's parole. The fact that Binsack withheld his history in the prospectus could be viewed as a disclosure violation, Byrne said.
Sept. 28: A story written by Falchek said Binsack is prohibited from being part of a business or participating in even basic financial transactions, such as having or using a bank account or a credit card, according to terms of his April 2011 parole. The story tells of Binsack's latest "Smokin in Shamokin" video, a 48-minute soliloquy titled "The Harassment Continues," during which Binsack says he could be sent back to prison "because of an alleged technicality with my agreement with the state." Meanwhile, an official at the securities commission said no determination had been made as to the prospectus and its possible exemption.
Week of Oct. 22: As reported in a Nov. 2 story, Binsack made himself unavailable for his parole supervisors and was declared a parole absconder. A warrant was issued for his arrest. "We don't declare people delinquent lightly," Leo Dunn, state Board of Probation and Parole spokesman, said on Oct. 31.
Oct. 26: In a video post, Binsack appears in what he called an "undisclosed location" meeting with "powerhouse attorneys." He alludes to a vast conspiracy, including officials from Shamokin and the state, whom he said are trying to stop him from uncovering alleged corruption in the area. He claims he'd reveal details in a "massive civil lawsuit." He refers to his undisclosed location as "Narnia," a reference to the fictional fantasy world in the series of children's books by C.S. Lewis.
Nov. 1: Shamokin Police Chief Ed Griffiths - who, along with city clerk Steve Bartos, has become the target of many of Binsack's claims of corruption - said he wasn't bothered by the accusations until Binsack began claiming corruption with Griffiths' 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. Griffiths, in an interview for a News-Item story, said he is considering legal action because of Binsack's claims. Binsack also alleges Griffiths has conspired with the parole board to have him taken into custody without cause.
Nov. 7: U.S. Marshals Service Middle District of Pennsylvania Task Force announced it has taken over the search for Binsack.
Tuesday: U.S. marshals, state probation and parole officers and city police paid a visit to Binsack's home, but said he was not there. Binsack later posts on Facebook that he will be "surrendering very soon" to "only a federal judge," and that he hasn't been "running," rather, he has been "gathering evidence" that backs his various theories regarding his case.
Wednesday and Thursday: A man claiming to be Binsack contacts The (Sunbury) Daily Item, saying he is in Costa Rica and is on the run because he fears for his life. He admits to taunting certain people, but says he's doing so because they have "ripped his life apart," the newspaper reported in a story in Thursday's edition. He reportedly blames Falchek for "making stuff up." (A lawsuit he once filed against Falchek and the Times-Tribune was dismissed by the court.) He claims officials in Shamokin didn't want his plan to succeed, and so they began to "set me up." The newspaper alerted the marshals service about the contact from Binsack.
What's next?: When Binsack is arrested, he will be jailed and have a hearing to determine if authorities have probable cause to continue to detain him. Within 120 days, a second hearing will determine if parole should be revoked. That would send Binsack back to jail until his maximum sentence date from Monroe County of May 18, 2014. However, he may also have his time on absconder status tacked onto his jail sentence.