A former karate teacher in Pennsylvania who was already accused of molesting five students has been charged with allegedly plotting to kill his accusers
A former karate instructor in Pennsylvania who was already accused of molesting five male students has now been charged with allegedly plotting to kill the boys, PEOPLE confirms.
Michael Scherbanic, a 29-year-old former instructor at the Tang Soo Do Karate College, was charged in June and July in five sexual assault cases, according to documents obtained by PEOPLE.
He was scheduled for trial next month — on multiple charges of sexual assault of minors, unlawful sexual conduct and endangering the welfare of children — and had pleaded not guilty.
Then on Wednesday Scherbanic was charged with 27 more counts, including five counts of soliciting homicide, five counts of soliciting causing a catastrophe and nine counts of soliciting retaliation, after police allege he tried to hire a hit man while behind bars.
Police claim Scherbanic, from South Park, Pennsylvania, concocted “an elaborate criminal plan,” according to charging documents.
He allegedly wanted “to intimidate victims, recruit witnesses to perjure themselves and obstruct the prosecution in five criminal cases.”
According to a police affidavit, Scherbanic asked his cellmate to kill or intimidate his alleged victims, who now range in age from 12 to 20, once the cellmate was out of jail.
The cellmate instead turned over what he claimed were Scherbanic’s handwritten plans.
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Investigators said in the affidavit that Scherbanic wanted to use explosives to eliminate the accusers — and that he and his cellmate spoke about this alleged plot in code.
The cellmate told investigators that Scherbanic “refer[red] to the killing of the victims as ‘Order 66,’ ” the affidavit claims, “This was a reference to one of the Star Wars movies, when troops turned on the ‘Jedi’ and began ‘killing them off.’ ”
The cellmate — identified in police documents as “Witness One” — told authorities that Scherbanic allegedly offered to pay him thousands of dollars and a lifetime of free karate lessons for his services.
With the alleged plot foiled, Scherbanic’s sexual assault trial will proceed on April 4.
He has yet to enter a plea to the new charges and is awaiting preliminary hearing.
Tang Soo Do, where Scherbanic worked, did not have a comment and has not spoken publicly about the case.
Scherbanic’s attorney, William Stockey, did not return PEOPLE’s calls.