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Accountant pleads guilt to conspiracy to divert Pa Cyber school funds

Brian Bowling
| Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, 1:18 p.m.
Neal Prence, an accountant from Koppel, Beaver County, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy in diversion of  about $800,000 in Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School funds for its founder and CEO, Nick Trombetta.
Dave Conti | Tribune-Review
Neal Prence, an accountant from Koppel, Beaver County, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy in diversion of about $800,000 in Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School funds for its founder and CEO, Nick Trombetta.

The accountant for former Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School CEO Nick Trombetta admitted Wednesday in federal court that he helped Trombetta illegally divert about $8 million in public money from the Beaver County school.

Neal Prence, 61, of Koppel pleaded guilty to a charge of tax conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti scheduled his sentencing for Jan. 6.

Prence had been set to plead Sept. 19 but backed out at the last minute because of some legal technicalities connected with his plea agreement, said his lawyer, Stanton Levenson.

“It wasn't so much a change of mind as trying to get a couple of details worked out,” Levenson said. He declined comment on those details.

Trombetta pleaded guilty Aug. 24 to illegally diverting about $8 million in public money from the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School in Midland to several other businesses he created or controlled. He faces up to five years in prison at his scheduled sentencing Dec. 20.

The investigation became public in July 2012 when agents searched Trombetta's office at the school. He resigned his post a month earlier.

Trombetta's sister, Elaine Trombetta Neil, pleaded guilty in October 2013 to filing a false individual income tax return on her brother's behalf. She is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 9.

Brian Bowling is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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