Two top officials at the Franciscan University of Steubenville were wooed, but ultimately not swayed, by cyber school founder Nick Trombetta at a Florida condominium that is now a subject of a federal indictment.
A joint FBI and IRS affidavit unsealed Thursday said that Mr. Trombetta used the Bonita Springs condo, allegedly purchased with funds that originated with the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, to "entertain" university personnel, in hopes of getting a contract for an unnamed business he controlled.
"Similar to how other high-level contracts are handled," university spokesman Tom Sofio wrote in response to questions, the school's then-president (now chancellor) Father Terence Henry and executive vice president Robert Filby "did attend a meeting at Mr. Trombetta's house in Florida in June 2012 to discuss the contract being offered."
He wrote that it was never executed. He wrote that federal investigators have not contacted the university.
Florida property records show that Mr. Trombetta bought the 41/2-bedroom condominium in 2011 for $933,000. According to the affidavit the cost was covered by Palatine Development LLC.
Palatine was a spinoff of Avanti Management Group of East Liverpool, Ohio, and both were secretly controlled by Mr. Trombetta, according to the indictment filed last month. Mr. Trombetta last year deeded the condo to Palatine for $10.
According to the indictment, Avanti was a subcontractor to PA Cyber, and was used by Mr. Trombetta to shift funds from the school he ran into businesses he tapped to cover personal expenses. Mr. Trombetta has pleaded not guilty to the 11-count indictment accusing him of mail fraud, theft or bribery from a federally funded program, tax conspiracy and filing a false tax return.
A proposed contract between Avanti and the university, dated May 2012, would have granted to the firm 38 percent of the tuition paid by online students.
That pact was never consummated, and the school's relationship with Avanti ended.
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1542 or on Twitter @richelord.