Nicholas Trombetta, the founder of a Pennsylvania cyber charter school that once served 15,000 students, was sentenced this week to 20 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $400,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to tax conspiracy in 2016.
Trombetta admitted to siphoning off roughly $8 million from the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School through a byzantine network of companies and nonprofits that he controlled. Among the ways Trombetta spent the money: a $933,000 Florida condo, houses for his mother and girlfriend, and a $300,000 airplane.
An accountant who helped Trombetta with the fraud scheme was also sentenced to prison earlier this year.
Though dramatic, the troubles at the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter school were hardly unique.
As part of Education Week’s award-winning 2016 investigation of the K-12 cyber charter industry, we took a look at well over a decade’s worth of reports of mismanagement and fraud in numerous full-time online schools in Pennsylvania and nearly two dozen other states.
Photo: Nicholas Trombetta, superintendent of Midland school district, discusses the future of Midland, Pennsylvania, on September 29, 2005. In this town of 3,000, the cyber school, one of the largest in the country, employs 270 people, including 95 teachers.--La Shinda Clark/Philadelphia Inquirer
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.