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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A former accountant who helped the head of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School commit fraud will serve prison time.
The money was supposed to go to educating kids, but the government showed that PA Cyber founder Dr. Nick Trombetta funneled some $8 million in public money into bogus entities and then into his own pocket.
“We allege that this was a conscious, intentional scheme to steal public money that was to be used to educate our children,” U.S. Attorney David Hickton said in 2013.
There was a corporate plane, luxurious homes and sprawling real estate holdings, and $1 million in cash.
To help hide those gains, Trombetta employed the services of accountant Neal Prence.
On Monday, Judge Joy Flowers Conti sentenced Prence to a year in prison for his role in covering it all up after he pleaded guilty to one count of tax conspiracy.
Friends and relatives appeared in support of Prence and in court, his defense attorney said Prence was remorseful for “the worst, most misguided decision in his life when he became a participant in Dr. Trombetta’s scheme.”
His defense attorney noted that while Prence made $120,000 a year for his work, “the big winner is Dr. Trombetta who stood to gain $8 million.”
But the government described Prence as a cover for Trombetta, calling him “a willing, long-term and eager participant in a criminal enterprise” and “an absolutely essential participant in an illegal scheme to divert $8 million in public money into the pocket of Nick Trombetta.”
The 12-month sentence is on the low end of the sentencing scale, and while Prence’s efforts deprived the government of nearly a half million dollars in taxes, Conti set his restitution at $50,000.
The figure lurking behind all of these proceedings is Nick Trombetta, who is said by the government to be the mastermind and chief beneficiary. He will be sentenced on July 24.