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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Judges in PA take kickbacks to send kids to private juvenile detention

I just heard this story on CNN, though it came to light 2 years ago.  Disgusting on several levels, but probably the most telling is how it belies the ridiculous assertion that private enterprise is always better, more efficient, and more effective than government-run activites and services.  Oh yeah, and the mob was involved!

Prosecutors alleged that [former Judge] Conahan, who pleaded guilty to racketeering last year, and [former Judge] Ciavarella plotted to shut down the dilapidated county-run juvenile detention center in 2002 and arrange for the construction of the PA Child Care facility outside Wilkes-Barre.

Ciavarella, who presided over juvenile court, sent youths to the center and later to its sister facility in western Pennsylvania while he was taking payments from Mericle, a prominent builder and close friend of Ciavarella, and Powell, a high-powered attorney.

Luzerne County paid Powell's company more than $30 million between 2003 and 2007 to house juveniles at PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care. The county could have built its own juvenile center for about $9 million, according to testimony.

. . . Ciavarella told jurors that he thought he was legally entitled to Mericle's money, calling it a "finder's fee" for introducing Mericle to Powell.

Ciavarella also denied that he extorted Powell, who had testified for the prosecution that he was forced to pay the judges nearly $600,000 after they agreed to send juvenile delinquents to his new lockup. The payments were disguised as rent on a Florida condominium owned by the judges' wives.

. . . Officials disclosed for the first time Friday that they were led to the judges by the reputed boss of a northeastern Pennsylvania Mafia family. William D'Elia — who regularly met for breakfast with Conahan — became a government informant after his 2006 arrest on charges of witness tampering and conspiracy to launder drug money.



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