Controversial Wright Township development again owes back taxes

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - | December 19th, 2015 4:41 pm

Property taxes are again overdue on a stalled Wright Township development linked to disgraced attorney Robert Powell and others involved in the Luzerne County juvenile justice scandal.

The development along Church Road, named The Sanctuary, is owned by W-Cat Inc., a company set up by Powell and Jill Moran, a former Luzerne County prothonotary and a partner with Powell at his law firm.

Luzerne County tax claim records show W-Cat owes $24,415 in delinquent real estate taxes for 2014, with nothing paid toward the debt last year.

The company previously racked up $71,500 in unpaid taxes for 2011 through 2013 but escaped an August 2014 tax auction by paying the debt shortly before the sale. Properties are eligible for auction if the debt dates back two years.

Moran, who is listed as the only officer of W-Cat in state corporation records, could not be reached for comment on the status of the project.

Work on the project stopped several years ago, with only one single family home and three two-unit townhomes built. The single home and one townhouse unit are the only structures privately owned, and they were both purchased through mortgage foreclosures.

The windowless shell of a fifth residential structure continues to deteriorate at the center of the 37-acre site along Church Road.

Township Supervisor Louis Welebob Jr. said he hasn’t heard any updates on the project but has not received complaints about the neglected appearance of most of the development.

The owners of the privately-owned townhouse posted this sign out front: “No trespassing. Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.” These owners, who could not be reached for comment, purchased the unit for $110,000 in 2012 through a mortgage foreclosure sale, county records show. Powell and his wife, Debra, had purchased this unit for $349,000 in 2007 but lost it when they defaulted on their mortgage, records show.

The W-Cat development had been in the headlines because former county judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael T. Conahan had guaranteed bank loans for the project along with Powell, Moran and others.

Dunmore-based First National Community Bank filed several documents with the county deeds office in 2014 indicating outstanding loans on the property totaling $4.5 million were repaid.

Moran was never charged in the corruption probe. She resigned from the prothonotary seat in March 2009 as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors. State records still list The Powell Law Group as an active corporation, with Powell as president and Moran as secretary.

Powell cannot practice law because he was disbarred. He now resides in Florida and completed an 18-month prison sentence for failing to report a $2.8 million kickback scheme involving Conahan and Ciavarella and two juvenile detention centers Powell co-owned. The two former judges are serving federal prison sentences — 28 years for Ciavarella and 17.5 years for Conahan.

An unfinished building continues to deteriorate in the failed Wright Township development known as “The Sanctuary,” which again carries delinquent real estate taxes. unfinished building continues to deteriorate in the failed Wright Township development known as “The Sanctuary,” which again carries delinquent real estate taxes. File photo

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.