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Former Chicago Schools CEO Indicted in Alleged Bribery, Kickback Scheme

Former Chicago schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has been indicted in connection with allegedly using her power to steer more than $23 million in no-bid contracts to her former employers.

The 23-count indictment from the U.S. Department of Justice alleges that Byrd-Bennett steered the contracts to The Supes Academy, and Synesi Associates, in exchange for an expectation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, kickbacks, and other compensation. Byrd-Bennett_Blog.jpg

Gary Solomon and Tom Vranas, co-owners of the SUPES Academy, were also criminally charged.

The U.S. Attorney's Office of Northern Illinois alleges that the companies provided Byrd-Bennett with numerous other "benefits, including meals, an airplane ticket, and seats at basketball and baseball games," according to the indictment.

According to the indictment, the companies agreed to: conceal the kickback money by funneling it into accounts set up in the names of two of Byrd-Bennett's relatives; and pay Byrd-Bennett in the form of a "signing bonus" after her employment with the Chicago schools ended and the companies re-hired her as a consultant.

A Justice Department news release indicates that Byrd-Bennett also expected to receive reimbursement from the companies for costs associated with a holiday party she hosted for Chicago school district personnel.

In April, Chicago school officials announced that a federal grand jury had subpoenaed documents related to the SUPES contract. 

Byrd-Bennett took a paid leave of absence from her job leading the nation's third-largest school district soon after that revelation. She resigned in May.

Byrd-Bennett worked as a consultant for SUPES and Synesi, which specialize in training principals and school administrators, before taking a job with the Chicago school system in May 2012.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed her chief executive officer in the fall of that year.

Here's a look at the indictment:

   Byrd Bennett Indictment

Photo: Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett speaks at a news conference in Chicago in 2012 after being appointed to the position by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, right. Ms. Byrd-Bennett was indicted Thursday on federal bribery charges connected to her role in steering more than $23 million in no-bid contracts to her a former employers.--M. Spencer Green/AP-File

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