The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

He bashed a police chief on Facebook. Then the chief threatened fake charges unless he deleted it, feds say.

Brian Buglio, the police chief of West Hazleton, Pa., is facing federal charges for allegedly threatening a private citizen with criminal charges in retaliation for social media posts, according to a lawsuit filed last week. (WNEP)
Placeholder while article actions load

Last March, West Hazleton, Pa., Police Chief Brian Buglio summoned a man to the police station to deliver an ultimatum, federal prosecutors said.

Either the man could delete Facebook posts he’d made slamming Buglio’s management of the department and his officers, and refrain from making any future critical comments — or else Buglio would fabricate felony charges against him.

“I said to Brian, ‘Why are you doing this?’ ” the victim, Paul DeLorenzo, told WNEP. “He goes, ‘Well, you like to post fake things and fake stories about me so, I could make up a fake arrest and put you in jail.’ ”

Now Buglio, 45, is facing federal charges for allegedly threatening DeLorenzo with criminal charges in retaliation for his social media posts.

Buglio has agreed to plead guilty, according to court documents in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Neither Buglio nor his attorney immediately responded to messages from The Washington Post late Monday.

Memphis police used fake Facebook account to monitor Black Lives Matter, trial reveals

Buglio has worked for the rural Eastern Pennsylvania department of four full-time and four part-time officers since 1996, according to the borough’s website.

In February 2020, several Facebook posts appeared slamming Buglio and his department in the town of nearly 4,400 residents, federal prosecutors said. (Court documents don’t name the author, but he identified himself to WNEP as DeLorenzo, who lives about 50 miles away in East Stroudsburg, Penn.)

In one of DeLorenzo’s posts, he wrote that Buglio had taken too long to make an arrest in a case he was involved with, WNEP reported. DeLorenzo also accused Buglio of committing a violent crime.

When Buglio learned about the posts, he allegedly threatened DeLorenzo over the phone.

“He called me, left me a voice mail, and said that he was going to arrest me for a crime that was being investigated for something I’ve never even done or had any part of,” DeLorenzo told WNEP.

On March 4, Buglio asked DeLorenzo to meet at the precinct, court records state, where he laid out his threats.

“During the meeting, Brian Buglio acknowledged that the threatened felony charges lacked merit,” according to the federal complaint.

By the end of the meeting, DeLorenzo agreed to take down the posts from the social media platform and to refrain from posting any other critical messages about Buglio and his force.

Both men shook hands to close the “deal” and parted ways. But DeLorenzo then called the FBI to report the chief’s threats, he told WNEP.

Eventually, the case was picked up by the FBI Scranton office’s Public Corruption Task Force, which includes officers from the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, along with FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents.

On Thursday, federal authorities charged Buglio with one count of deprivation of civil rights. Buglio could face up to one year of imprisonment and a $100,000 fine in the case.

The chief signed a plea deal in April in which he agreed to resign from his position, court records show.

Court records do not indicate when Buglio is next due in court.

West Hazleton Solicitor Chris Slusser told The Post that Buglio has since resigned from the department.

Loading...