Last updated: February 26. 2013 11:50PM - 2168 Views

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The former co-owner of two juvenile detention centers at the heart of Luzerne County’s “kids for cash” scandal has been released to a halfway house to serve out the remainder of an 18-month prison sentence imposed in November 2011.

Attorney Robert J. Powell was released to the halfway house from the federal prison in Pensacola, Fla., late Tuesday afternoon, according to Chris Burke, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Corrections.

Powell, who once co-owned the PA and Western PA Child Care juvenile detention centers, pleaded guilty to failing to advise federal authorities he was aware former county judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan had illegally accepted money from commercial real estate developer Robert Mericle, the builder of the two centers.

Prosecutors said Powell assisted the judges in concealing the source of a “finder’s fee” that had been paid to them by Mericle. Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years in prison and Conahan to 17 1/2 years in prison for their roles in the scandal.

Powell was set to be released from prison on April 16. Federal inmates routinely are released to a halfway house in the weeks before their sentence expires, Burke said.

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