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“Kids For Cash” Scandal Builder Faces Sentencing

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On Friday, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Robert Mericle was sentenced to one year in prison. Mericle was sentenced by Senior District Judge Edwin M. Kosik. Judge Kosik also ordered Mericle to pay a $250,000 fine and to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons on May 14, 2014.

The charges against Mericle stem from Mericle's making $2.1 million payments to former Luzerne County judges Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan, who was accused of conspiring to shutter a county-run juvenile detention center and send scores of juveniles to two facilities built by Mericle's construction firm. A judge sentenced him to one year in a federal prison and ordered him to pay a $250,000 fine for his role in the Kids for Cash scandal. Mericle testified as a principal government witness in the trial of former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Ciavarella on February 2011.
According to the United States Attorney’s Office, the two judges reportedly took over $2.1 million in bribes from Robert Mericle in the “kids for cash” scandal, which took place back in 2008. Both men were charged before a federal grand jury for charges including: racketeering, money laundering, fraud, extortion, and bribery. The former judges are both serving lengthy prison sentences; Ciavarella is serving 28 years in a federal prison and Conahan is serving 17 years in a minimum security prison. Mericle has plead guilty to failing to report a felony.
According to ABC news, www.abcnews.com, Sandy Fonzo, whose son committed suicide in 2010 at the age of 23 after bouncing in and out of Ciavarella courtroom, said Friday she was pleased with the sentence. "He's going to feel what it's like to lose his family and sleep in a cell like the one he built for our children," she said.

Mericle, the last major figure in the so-called "kids for cash" scandal to be sentenced, apologized to the court. “I’m ashamed to be here. But I put myself here," he said. www.newsday.com Mericle did not break the law by paying the judges, but the judges committed a crime by taking the money, and Judge Kosik said that Mericle had contributed to a widespread culture of corruption in Luzerne County.

According to the Juvenile Law Center, www.jlc.org, “The scope of the violations of the children’s rights in Luzerne County turned out to be more egregious than anyone could have imagined. From 2003 to 2008, the Luzerne County judicial corruption scandal altered the lives of more than 2500 children and involved more than 6000 cases. Over 50 percent of the children who appeared before Ciavarella lacked legal representation; 60 percent of these children were removed from their homes. Many of them were sent to one or both of the two facilities at the center of the corruption scandal.”

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