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Defense claims breach of attorney-client confidentiality

After entering a not guilty plea to fraud charges last year, the attorney for the founder of an online Pennsylvania charter school is asking a federal judge to dismiss the charges against his client. A motion filed by the defense claims that some of the evidence includes illegal recordings of telephone conversations in which attorneys gave the defendant legal advice. The defense motion characterizes the conversations as protected by attorney-client confidentiality rules.

When it opened, the defendant's charter school was an overwhelming success that rapidly grew and expanded. The cyber education concept offered by the school revolutionized online education and attracted students whose education was funded by tax dollars. Eventually, the personal spending habits and lifestyle of the school's founder became the focus of a federal investigation.

The investigation resulted in a criminal charge alleging that the defendant stole $8 million from the public funding that the school received and used it to buy a corporate airplane and other trappings of a luxury lifestyle. According to the accusations, the head of the school owned multiple high-priced homes and other real estate investment holdings purchased with taxpayer money earmarked for the education of the cyber school's students.

The defense motion recently filed in district court challenges the methods used by prosecutors and investigators to gather evidence during the federal fraud investigation. According to the motion papers, they violated the attorney-client privilege by secretly recording telephone conversations in which attorneys gave the defendant legal advice. It is anticipated that prosecutors will contend that the attorneys were representing the school. The judge hearing the white collar crime case will have to decide if there was an attorney-client relationship in order to address the issue of an alleged breach of the privilege.

Source: CBS Pittsburgh, "Pa. Cyber School Founder Files Motion To Have Charges Thrown Out", Andy Sheehan, June 04, 2014

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