PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The founder of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School was back in court Wednesday on federal tax fraud charges.
Nick Trombetta pioneered online education in the state and spawned an empire, but he has now pleaded guilty to tax conspiracy to hide millions of dollars he received from your local property taxes.
Money originally intended for books and teachers.
“The sad fact is all of that money could have been put to educating children,” said U.S. Attorney David Hickton.
In founding Pa. Cyber, Trombetta created the largest and most successful cyber school in the state. So successful it spawned a string of related companies which derived their income from the cyber school.
KDKA’s reports were the first to question who that money was being funneled to; and in indicting Trombetta, the feds said much of it went into his own pocket.
“The income was diverted through a scheme through the creation of several companies, each of which was sort of advising the other, and it allowed for this money to accumulate and for things like condominiums and airplanes to be purchased,” Hickton said.
A corporate jet, a Florida condominium, sprawling real estate amounting to $8 million in cash were just some of the excesses Trombetta is accused of lavishing on himself, his sister and his girlfriend.
In pleading guilty to hiding that money, Trombetta is looking at up to five years in prison for violating the public’s trust.
“The money that is part of the social contract we make with taxpayers, that they’re going to pay money legally and appropriately, and it goes to educate our most precious resource, our children, is not to go in the pockets of people who form schools like Pa. Cyber,” Hickton said.
Trombetta was indicted in 2013 and was facing 11 counts of mail fraud, theft or bribery, conspiracy and tax offenses related to his involvement in entities that did business with Pa. Cyber.
Even though Trombetta entered a guilty plea, the prosecution and defense were at odds over it for several hours Wednesday afternoon, but the details were eventually worked out and the judge accepted it.
Trombetta faces sentencing in December.