While President Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton talk about their political party’s passion for helping America’s schoolchildren through government programs,a federal indictment charges Obama friend Barbara Byrd-Bennettwith using her government position for the Chicago Public School System to award lucrative no-bid contracts to her former employer in exchange for bribes and kickbacks.
The 23-count indictment alleges that Byrd-Bennett steered no-bid contracts worth more than $23 million to The Supes Academy and Synesi Associates LLC, in exchange for an expectation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.
Chicago’s mayor and former Obama chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who hired Byrd-Bennett said in a statement: “There’s a violation of the public, the trust the public puts in you not just the public trust. We have a responsibility anybody serving the public to uphold the trust that the public puts in them to be focused on advancing the goals of the general public.”
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, according to the indictment.
A later agreement called for the funds to be paid to Byrd-Bennett in the form of a “signing bonus” after her employment with CPS ended and the companies re-hired her as a consultant, according to the indictment.
The companies, which specialize in training principals and school administrators, provided Byrd-Bennett with numerous other benefits, including meals, an airplane ticket, and seats at basketball and baseball games, the indictment states.
Byrd-Bennett also expected to receive reimbursement from the companies for costs associated with a holiday party she hosted for CPS personnel, according to the charges.
The indictment charges Byrd-Bennett with 15 counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud. .An arraignment date in U.S. District Court in Chicago has not yet been set.
“Graft and corruption in our city’s public school system tears at the fabric of a vital resource for the children of Chicago,” said Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. “School officials and city vendors who abuse the public trust will be held accountable.”
Each count of mail and wire fraud is punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, mandatory restitution, and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greater. Each count of bribery of a government official carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greater. The charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States is punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greater.