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United States of America v. Mark Ciavarella, Jr. and Michael Conahan

Middle District of Pennsylvania Docket Number 3:CR-09-00028

         - Link to Conahan Statement to the Court by Government Counsel in connection with guilty plea colloquy; Acknowledgment by defendant.

         - Link to Kosik Order Rejecting Plea Agreements

         - Link to Criminal Information

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Case Summary:

President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr. and former President Judge Michael T. Conahan, both of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas, have been charged in a two count criminal information with conspiring to impede the Internal Revenue Service in the collection of federal income taxes and with having devised a scheme to defraud the citizens of Luzerne County and of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania of the right to their honest services by concealing their receipt of more than $2.6 million between January of 2003 and April of 2007.

The defendants are alleged to have engaged in honest services fraud by taking millions of dollars from two unnamed persons in connection with the construction, expansion and operation of juvenile detention centers in Luzerne County and elsewhere. The criminal information charges that, between 2004 and 2007, both judges filed materially false annual statements of financial interests with the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts in which they failed to disclose the sources of income they received from these unnamed persons, and in which they failed to disclose their financial relationship with these businesses. At the same time the Judges were allegedly concealing these payments and financial ties, it is alleged the Judges took discretionary actions in a number of matters involving the juvenile detention facilities without recusing themselves from those matters and without disclosing to parties involved in the proceedings their conflict of interest . These actions are alleged to have included:

–Taking official action to remove funding from the Luzerne County budget for the Luzerne County juvenile detention facility, effectively closing that facility;

–Ordering juveniles to be sent to these facilities in which the judges had a financial interest even when Juvenile Probation Officers did not recommend detention;

–Entering a “Placement Guarantee Agreement” to house juveniles in a facility in which the judges had an interest guaranteeing that the Court of Common Pleas would pay an annual “Rental Installment” sum of $1,314,000, without disclosing payments received by the judges; and,

–Summarily granting motions to seal the record and for injunctive relief in a civil case relating to a juvenile detention facility in which the judges had a financial interest.

According to the charges, the defendants received the payments into businesses that they controlled, and in some instances falsely identified the payments as rental fees for a Florida condominium. The information further charges that the defendants conspired to impede the Internal Revenue Service by making false entries in business records and falsely characterizing the payments they received.