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Pittsburgh man files suit in 'kids for cash' scam

| Saturday, July 19, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

A Pittsburgh businessman and several companies filed suit in federal court on Friday claiming his former business partner and others cost them millions of dollars in a kickback scheme that eventually led the state Supreme Court to vacate the convictions of thousands of juveniles.

Gregory R. Zappala and several companies he has been associated with — Western PA Child Care LLC, PA Child Care LLC, Mid-Atlantic Youth Services Corp., Consulting Innovations and Services Inc. and Gladstone Partners LP — filed the suit against, among others, Robert J. Powell, the former co-owner of two for-profit juvenile facilities who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his role in the so-called “kids for cash” scandal.

Powell and Zappala co-owned youth detention facilities in Butler and Luzerne counties where youths were sent by then-Luzerne County judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella Jr. Both former jurists are serving lengthy prison sentences.

Zappala, the brother of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., was not charged in the criminal case and was dropped as a defendant in a civil case filed by hundreds of children and their families in the wake of the scandal.

The suit claims that Powell, his co-conspirators and others named as defendants in the lawsuit “thoroughly corrupted” the Luzerne County justice system; “ruined” the reputations of Zappala and the other plaintiffs; “stole millions of dollars” from them; and burdened them with “crushing debt and litigation costs.”

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or mhasch@tribweb.com.

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