Feds Seek 89-Month Sentence for Former Chicago CEO in Corruption Case
Federal prosecutors are seeking an 89-month sentence for Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the former chief of Chicago Public schools, for her role in an estimated $20 million kickback scheme, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Byrd-Bennett was indicted in 2015 for conspiring with the top brass at SUPES Academy and Synesi Associates to award no-bid contracts to the companies in exchange for bribes and kickbacks. The companies focused on principal professional development and school turnaround, per the Chicago Sun-Times.
She pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in October 2015. Byrd-Bennett and Thomas Vranas, SUPES Academy's co-owner who also pleaded guilty to charges related to the scheme, are expected to be sentenced on April 28, according to the Tribune. Vranas is seeking three years of probation, per the Tribune.
Gary Solomon, SUPES Academy's chief executive officer, also pleaded guilty and was given a seven-year sentence in March.
Byrd-Bennett's attorneys acknowledged that her actions constituted "an extraordinary breach of trust." They asked for a three-and-a-half-year sentence and said Byrd-Bennett, 68, was willing to perform community service, including helping school districts to "adhere to complete integrity and transparency," particularly in procurements.
They wrote that she "is terribly sorry, overwhelmed by fear and shame, and prepared to accept the sentence the court determines is fair and warranted."
Federal prosecutors said the 89-month sentencing request acknowledges Byrd-Bennett's cooperation, but also sends a message that corruption and greed will not be tolerated at any level. Byrd-Bennett's misdeeds were just "another story in the long history of corruption, graft, and greed in Chicago," they said.
"She sold her integrity and sold out the students of the Chicago Public Schools, and then she worked to enrich herself and her co-schemers at the expense of CPS, its students, its teachers, its administrators, and the city of Chicago," they wrote.