Attorneys representing juveniles and parents in the “Kids for Cash” case filed a court action Monday accusing Robert J. Powell and the Powell Law Group of reneging on a settlement agreement to pay $33,643 in a lawsuit filed by the victims.
The original lawsuit claimed juveniles, their parents and guardians suffered harm at the hands of former county judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan and others who were involved in a $2.8 million kickback scheme connected to the construction of two for-profit, private juvenile detention centers and the placement of youths in the facilities.
Powell, a Hazleton area native who according to court records now lives in a mansion in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, served time for failing to report a crime related to the kickback scheme.
Monday’s filing asks a federal judge to order the “Powell defendants” to pay that settlement amount with interest.
In exchange for dismissal from the suit, Powell and the law firm he created agreed to pay $4.75 million and possibly up to $2.5 million more based on his net worth calculated by the end of 2016.
United States District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo granted final approval of the settlement Dec. 21.
According to the new filing:
The agreement required the Powell defendants to deposit $4.55 million into the settlement escrow account in December, but that deposit was short $50,000.
A $16,357 credit was applied due to some claimants opting out, but the Powell defendants still owe $33,643.
On April 6, lawyers for the plaintiffs instructed the Powell defendants, which also included Powell company Vision Holdings LLC to pay the balance by April 13.
On April 14, the Powell defendants were informed of plans for the filing of a motion to enforce the settlement if the money wasn’t paid. The lawyers again issued a similar warning on April 22, saying the motion would be filed April 25.
In an attempt to avoid filing the motion, the lawyers asked the Powell defendants on April 25 to enter into a consent order establishing a date when the remaining funds would be paid, but the defendants declined.
The filing seeks $33,643 plus interest calculated at 0.04 percent from Dec. 21 until the funds are deposited, and an additional $3,000 in legal fees.
In an email exchange, copies of which were filed with the motion, attorney Stephen Stallings said on April 22 that the money would be deposited by the Powell defendants on May 1 or earlier.
Stallings said in an April 25 email that the “issue was brought to Mr. Powell’s attention very recently” and there was no “effort to deposit the wrong amount.”
“As you know, he is an individual, not a multi-national corporation. Obtaining those funds is not an instantaneous matter,” wrote Stallings, questioning the plaintiffs’ decision to resort to a filing.
Attorney David S. Senoff, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, told Stallings the plaintiffs can’t rely on a “naked promise” to make a required payment.
“So, perhaps you can understand our skepticism when all you do is continue to promise to fix it, without actually fixing it,” Senoff replied to Stallings on April 25.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.