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LESSONS IN CRIME?
Why Protecting Schools Matters

08/23/06

photo of school buses

It’s that time of year…when kids and families are gearing up for the coming school year. We’re gearing up, too, to help keep corruption out of the public school system.

That’s the FBI’s job? Yes, if the individuals involved are government employees, it falls squarely within our public corruption mandate.

Of course, the overwhelming majority of school teachers and administrators are fully and admirably devoted to their students. But even schools and universities are not free of graft and dishonesty…and it does nothing less than put the quality of our country’s education at risk. Corruption robs school budgets of millions of essential dollars…causes students to get inferior books, supplies, and facilities…and perhaps most importantly, sends the wrong message to our nation’s youth.

Here are some examples of cases we’ve worked with our partners in recent weeks and months:

  • On Tuesday, a Maryland man was indicted for allegedly buying $1 million in educational software while head of Prince George’s County schools. Why is that a crime? Because, according to the charges, his live-in girlfriend worked for the software company, and the pair split a $20,000 commission on the sale. He is also charged with steering a consulting contract to a former employee in exchange for more than $100,000 in kickbacks.

  • While state superintendent of Georgia schools, Linda Schrenko helped steal more than half-a-million dollars by fraudulently writing checks to a fellow conspirator. The money was supposed to pay for computer licenses and services for the Georgia and Atlanta Area Schools for the Deaf and the Governor's Honors Program. Instead, most of it went straight into Schrenko’s pockets: to help fund her ultimately failed campaign for governor and even to pay for her facelift surgery. On July 12, Schrenko was sentenced to eight years in prison for her crimes.

  • On June 15, a Maryland elementary school principal named Diane McFarland was convicted of embezzling some $18,000 that was supposed to pay for reading materials for her students and to reimburse teachers for training expenses.

  • On April 3, Lorelle Dance, ex-business manager for D.C. public schools, pled guilty to taking nearly $40,000 in bribes from a contractor—including monthly mortgage payments on her house—in return for preferential treatment in obtaining work at several elementary schools.

  • Brothers David and Guadalupe Vasquez, one the former superintendent of the Santa Rosa Independent School District and the other a former school board president, were convicted of corruption following an FBI sting. The brothers agreed to rig a contract for school bus tires…for a price—four car tires worth all of $500.

  • Carl Coleman, a former risk manager for the New Orleans Public Schools, pled guilty to accepting some $300,000 in kickbacks in exchange for giving contractors favorable treatment on “emergency bid” work. Following this case, the New Orleans Police Department, U.S. Department of Education, FBI, and others created a working group to review and investigate alleged criminal violations in the New Orleans Public Schools. So far, the group’s work has led to over 25 convictions.

We’re doing our part to protect the integrity of the nation’s school systems. Please do your part, too. Help us stop fraud, waste, and corruption in schools and throughout government by submitting tips through our Report Corruption website…or by calling your local FBI office.

Resources: Public Corruption webpage | More stories