WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The infamous “Kids for Cash” scheme is once again in the headlines as a federal civil lawsuit hearing continues in federal court.
Hundreds of victims of two corrupt judges, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, are seeking financial damages from the judges.
Wednesday, the I-Team talked with a man who was one of the first to be sent away as part of the kickback. He says he is still trying to recover from the trauma of being sent away, for no good reason.
“A total of about 20 seconds, shackled and cuffed, pulled up in front of him, my parents didn’t even know where I was at this point,” says Nick Angeles, “Kids for Cash” victim.
That’s how quickly Nick Angeles says his case was handled by former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella. He was 14 years old, facing a petty theft charge, and was sent away for over a year.
“Didn’t get to speak on nothing, we’ll see you later,” Angeles explained that’s what Ciavarella said to him before he was taken away. “Yes, we’ll see you later and that was it, I was taken away.”
Federal prosecutors say thousands of juveniles were sent away for minor offenses as part of a kickback scheme involving former Luzerne County judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan. Investigators say the crimes took place between 2002 and 2008.
They were accused of accepting millions of dollars in kickbacks in exchange for sending juveniles to private juvenile detention centers in which they had a business interest.
Conahan pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy and was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison. He was released in 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns. Ciavarella stood trial in 2011 and was convicted on 12 of 39 counts and is serving 28 years in prison.
Angeles says he was sent to a PA Child Care in Pittston Township.
“They said you’re going to be the second person in there. The dead of winter, the building wasn’t even finished built yet,” said Angeles.
Angeles says he was upset to learn that Ciavarella tried to get an early release, a so-called compassionate release, because of COVID-19 concerns.
“It’s just crazy that he’s still trying to get out. After doing what he did to so many people, for so long, to put a dollar in his pocket,” Angeles said.
The Federal Civil Damages hearing is expected to last two to three weeks at the Federal Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.