Industry News

Accountant Reconsiders Plea in Online Charter School Founder's Tax Fraud

An accountant charged with helping the founder and former CEO of Pennsylvania’s largest online charter school avoid federal income taxes on more than $8 million siphoned from the school has reconsidered a guilty plea, the accountant’s defense attorney told the Associated Press Monday.

Attorney Stan Levenson previously told the AP that Neil Prence would plead guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit tax fraud. But Prence’s appearance before a federal judge in Pittsburgh was postponed until Sept. 28 after Levenson said Prence “needs additional time to consider” the plea.

Prence is charged along with Nicholas Trombetta, 61, who pleaded guilty to the fraud last month involving the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School.

The Midland-based school — more commonly known as PA Cyber — accepts public students from districts throughout the state that pay it to educate children. The school had more than 11,000 students when Trombetta was charged three years ago, and still has more than 9,000, according to the AP.

Trombetta acknowledged using the school’s money to purchase, among other things, a $933,000 condominium in Florida, houses in Ohio for his mother and girlfriend, a $300,000 plane and other personal expenses. Trombetta reportedly stashed most of the money away in retirement, the AP said. He’ll be sentenced Dec. 20.

Before Monday’s hearing, Levenson told the AP that “Prence is a well-respected professional with no prior criminal history. He has taken responsibility for his conduct and will be seeking a non-incarceration sentence.”

Levenson didn’t say why Prence decide to reconsider the guilty plea.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].