Saturday, March 31, 2018

PA: Charter Fraud Finally Headed to Jail

Nick Trombetta is finally going to be sentenced.

This guy
Trombetta is the founder-operator of PA Cyber Charter School (until 2013, just as the fertilizer met the fan) and also the founder of Lincoln Performing Arts Center School and some other charter-related businesses. PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale (the guy who called PA charter laws the worst in the nation) found a number of issues, including hiring family members for big-money jobs, and funneling giant gouts of money to a no-oversight management company. All shady and costing the taxpayers millions of dollars, but also, as DePasquale notes, perfectly legal under Pennsylvania charter law. The state of Pennsylvania was never going to so much as bother him because, by PA charter law, he was perfectly within his rights to hire a computer company that was co-owned by a trustee (board member).

The feds, however, were another matter. They caught Trombetta stuffing his own pockets with $8 million of taxpayer money. Trombetta fought the charges, but in 2016 finally fessed up. Since then, his sentencing has been repeatedly postponed, but is now scheduled for his sentencing for tax fraud and conspiracy in July. The conspiracy part is because Trombetta had some partners in this web of fraud who helped him cook the books.

PA Cyber would like everyone to know that they are among the wronged parties here, and that they are like a whole new land of upright swellness ever since Trombetta et al were ousted.

Of course, like all PA cyber charters, they have failed to meet the standard for Big Standardized Test scoring, and the state of Pennsylvania is no more ready to ferret out charter misbehavior than they were back when the feds had to step in and stop Trombetta.

Or as former state legislator and thorn in PA Cyber's side Karen Beyer said back in 2013:

I figured that justice would ultimately be served, that they would be found out — how he had defrauded the taxpayers of Pennsylvania. We still have cybercharter schools that are unregulated. This plea should stand as a warning to the Legislature that they have got to do something about regulating these schools.

Spoiler alert: they still haven't. Will things get any better in PA? Who knows. But Nick Trombetta will have up to five years to figure out his next business enterprise.

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