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Three Ex-Detroit Principals Sentenced to Prison for Role in Kickback Scheme

Three former Detroit principals were sentenced Wednesday to varying prison terms and required to pay restitution to the financially strapped school district for their roles in a kickback scheme that ensnared 13 district officials, according to the Detroit Free-Press.

The principals were implicated in a kickback scheme in which a former district vendor, Norman Shy, billed the school system for supplies that it never received, the newspaper reported. A dozen principals and one assistant superintendent approved Shy's invoices in exchange for close to $1 million in payments, the paper said. 

Shy pleaded guilty to charges related to the scheme in May, and he was sentenced last week to a five-year prison term and ordered to repay the district $2.7 million and $51,667 to the Internal Revenue Service to cover outstanding taxes. Those sentenced this week, the paper said, were:

  • Clara Smith, a former principal at Thirkell Elementary-Middle School, was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay $194,000 in restitution to the district. In addition, Smith will serve one year under supervised release.
  • Willye Pearsall, a former principal of Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, was sentenced to a 15-month prison term, which will be followed by one year of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution to the district and undergo treatment for gambling.
  • James Hearn, a former principal of Marcus Garvey Academy, was sentenced to 10 months in prison, along with one year of supervised release. Hearn also has to repay the district $11,500.

Most of the other educators involved in the scheme have already been sentenced.

All but one person has pleaded guilty, according to the Free-Press. That individual, former Principal Josette Buendia, is scheduled to go to trial in December.

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