LUZERNE COUNTY, Pa. (WBRE/WYOU) — Hundreds of victims of two corrupt Pennsylvania judges are seeking financial damages as a lawsuit plays out in federal court this week after the infamous “Kids for Cash” scheme.
Wednesday, NewsNation affiliates WBRE/WYOU spoke with Nick Angeles, 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.
Angeles says he was in front of Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella for “a total of about 20 seconds” before he was sentenced to more than a year in jail for a petty theft charge. He was 14.
“Didn’t get to speak on nothing, we’ll see you later,” Angeles explained that’s what Ciavarella said to him before he was led out of the courtroom. “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 Ciavarella and Michael Conahan. The crimes took place between 2002 and 2008.
The judges accepted 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 1/2 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. [It was] 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.
“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.
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