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Former head of Beaver Co. cyber charter says criminal charges should be tossed

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014, 8:21 p.m.

A federal judge should dismiss criminal charges or throw out most of the evidence it gathered against the former head of a Beaver County cyber charter school because federal agents knowingly recorded his conversations with four attorneys providing him legal advice, the man says in court documents filed Tuesday.

A federal grand jury in August indicted Nicholas Trombetta of East Liverpool, Ohio, on 11 counts of mail fraud, bribery, tax conspiracy and filing false tax returns. Trombetta used his position as the head of the PA Cyber Charter School and his control of several related entities to grab at least $1 million in tax dollars paid to the school, prosecutors say.

Trombetta claims that the government knew early in its investigation that four lawyers connected with the school and other companies were also providing him personal legal advice but had two former colleagues record conference calls where he talked with the lawyers.

The informants also questioned Trombetta and others about the advice the lawyers were giving him over the seven months they were wearing wires, the motion says.

“At best, the government sat back while its informants invaded Trombetta's attorney-client relationships and took no steps to curtail such conduct,” Trombetta says in a heavily redacted brief. “At worst, the government directed and encouraged it. Either way, the government's actions constitute deliberate intrusion into protected attorney-client relationships.”

Trombetta is asking the judge to schedule an evidentiary hearing to determine the extent of the intrusion.

If prosecutors presented any evidence obtained through those conversations to the grand jury, U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti should dismiss the entire case. If not, she should at least throw out all the evidence the government obtained from the recordings and any search warrants that were based on those recordings, the motion says.

The U.S. Attorney's Office declined comment.

In previous motions, Trombetta's lawyers say that the government's evidence includes more than 4 million documents including transcripts of the recorded conversations and his emails.

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