MIDLAND (KDKA) — Like a Phoenix from the ashes, Midland, Beaver County, rose from rusty hulks of the Crucible Steel Mill into a vibrant community.

People there credit PA Cyber and its founder, Nick Trombetta.

“After Crucible shut down, the town was almost a ghost town by then,” Bob Mong, of Midland, said. “And then he come in, he started building new buildings, brought all the jobs in for the cyber school.”

But now Trombetta is the focus of a federal investigation.

The FBI and the IRS are looking into whether Pennsylvania tax dollars funded his spin off ventures, including the National Network of Digital Schools and Lincoln Interactive Online Curriculum and whether Trombetta improperly profited.

Thursday, FBI agents raided Trombetta’s Cyber School office and a farm in East Liverpool, the home of Trombetta’s Avanti Management Group.

“The fact that now the federal government is investigating would lead one to believe that there was more money there than was needed to educate cyber school students effectively,” Ron Sofo, outgoing superintendent of the Freedom Area School District, said.

Pa Cyber is funded by school districts whose students opt out of traditional schools for an education online school.

Sofo was one of a group of Beaver County superintendents who alleged that cyber schools get too much and that Trombetta used excess tax money to fund these other ventures.

“I would hope that this set of allegations and investigation would spur the legislature and our governor to correct the inequitable funding formula for cyber charter schools across the state,” he said.

But it Midland, that all sounds like sour grapes.

“There wouldn’t be anything without him,” Daryl Tice, of Midland, added. “Ask anybody. They’ll tell you the same.”

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