Law Offices of David G. Arganian, Seattle, WA

Ex-owner of Pa. youth lockups gets 18 months

The former owner of two juvenile detention facilities was sentenced Friday to 18 months in prison for his role in a kickback scheme that led the state Supreme Court to vacate the convictions of thousands of juveniles who appeared before a now-jailed Pennsylvania judge.

Robert Powell pleaded guilty in 2009 to concealing a felony and an accessory charge in the so-called "kids for cash" scandal.

Powell testified earlier this year that he was forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to former Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan in return for their support of his two private juvenile detention facilities.

Powell said the judges extorted more than $725,000 from him after they shut down the county-run detention center and instead sent juveniles to his new lockup outside the city of Wilkes-Barre.

Sentencing guidelines call for a punishment of between 27 to 33 months in prison, but Powell was given credit for cooperating with the government.

When Powell became aware he was a target of the investigation, he approached prosecutors and offered to provide details of the scheme.

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