Businessman claiming poverty in kids-for-cash settlement bid

Written by The Associated Press | May 5, 2017 9:37 AM

This Feb. 6, 2009 file photo shows the privately owned PA Child Care youth detention center in Pittston, Pa. Prosecutors alleged that Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella and a second jurist, Michael Conahan, took millions in kickbacks in return for guaranteeing the placement of juvenile offenders into youth lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC. Ciavarella is serving a 28-year sentence and fellow ex-judge Conahan 17 years for taking $2.6 million from companies looking to build and fill a youth detention center for Luzerne County. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

(Wilkes-Barre) --  A businessman who has already paid $4.75 million to settle a lawsuit by juveniles wrongly sent to his Pennsylvania detention centers is claiming he's broke in an effort to avoid paying up to $2.75 million more in damages.

The (Hazleton) Standard-Speaker reports Robert Powell claims to be $5.6 million in debt, and unable to pay anything more to settle the case.

Powell was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the "kids for cash" kickback scheme that led the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to vacate the convictions of thousands of juveniles.

Powell claimed two now-imprisoned Luzerne County judges, Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan, forced him to pay kickbacks so they'd send juveniles to two private juvenile facilities Powell partly owned.

Attorneys for the juvenile plaintiffs are asking for an independent audit of Powell's wealth.

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