$17 million settlement approved in Luzerne County's 'kids-for-cash' case
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A federal judge has approved the $17.75 million settlement that the builder of two juvenile detention facilities who allegedly paid millions in "finder's fees" to former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judges Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., agreed to last December in a civil suit brought by a class of juvenile plaintiffs.
The suit stems from the "kids-for-cash" scandal in Luzerne County.
Under the settlement agreement approved by U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo in Wallace v. Powell, according to court documents, Robert Mericle and his company, Mericle Construction Inc., would pay $17.75 million into the settlement fund with no admission of liability, resolving all claims against them.
Remaining defendants in the suit include Ciavarella and Conahan, as well as Robert Powell, the former co-owner of PA Child Care detention facility who admitted to paying millions in kickbacks to the two judges.
The consolidated suits allege that Conahan and Ciavarella conspired with the other defendants and used their influence as judicial officers to select PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care as detention facilities, and that they intentionally filled them with juveniles to earn the conspirators excessive profits.
The largest single portion of the settlement will be reserved for juvenile victims who suffered physical or psychological harm as the result of being sent to detention centers by Ciavarella, according to court documents.
Conahan is serving a 17.5-year sentence in Florida. Ciavarella is serving 28 years in an Illinois prison. On Dec. 27, 2011, Powell began serving an 18-month prison sentence in Florida. Mr. Mericle has also entered a guilty plea but has yet to be sentenced.
First Published December 31, 2012 12:00 am