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Accountant Reconsidering Plea In School Founder's Tax Fraud

PITTSBURGH (AP) - An accountant charged with helping the founder of Pennsylvania's largest online charter school avoid paying income taxes on more than $8 million siphoned from the school has reconsidered a guilty plea, the accountant's defense attorney said Monday.

Attorney Stan Levenson previously told The Associated Press that Neil Prence would plead guilty to conspiracy to commit tax fraud on Monday. But Prence's appearance before a federal judge in Pittsburgh was postponed until Sept. 28 after Levenson said Prence "needs additional time to consider" the plea.

Prence is charged along with Nicholas Trombetta, who last month pleaded guilty to the scheme involving The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. Trombetta will be sentenced Dec. 20.

The Midland-based school more commonly known as PA Cyber accepts public students from districts throughout the state that pay it to educate students. The school had more than 11,000 students when Trombetta was charged three years ago and still has more than 9,000.

Trombetta pleaded guilty to federal tax fraud because he allegedly avoided paying taxes on money he siphoned from the school to buy a Florida condominium, houses for his mother and girlfriend, and nearly $1 million in personal purchases. Prosecutors contend he socked most of the money away for retirement.

Trombetta allegedly stole the money by running it through several other companies he also controlled that were either affiliated with the school or served as its vendors, allegedly with Prence's help.

Before Monday's hearing, Levenson told the AP that "Prence is a well-respected professional with no prior criminal history. He has taken responsibility for his conduct and will be seeking a nonincarceration sentence."

Levenson didn't say why Prence decided to reconsider the guilty plea.

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(© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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