Former head of Chicago schools charged in bribery scheme

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 08, 2015 2:08 PM

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chicago Public Schools former Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett has been charged with accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes for helping a company she had previously worked for win a lucrative contract, according to a federal indictment on Thursday.

Byrd-Bennett, 66, resigned in June amid a federal probe into the $20.5 million no-bid contract the cash-strapped district had awarded to her previous employer, SUPES Academy, an education consulting firm.

The 43-page indictment includes criminal charges against Byrd-Bennett and also against two owners of the academy and an associated company.

The indictment said Byrd-Bennett accepted bribes such as tickets to professional sports games and funds for a holiday party for school employees. She is charged with 15 counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud. The other indicted parties also face bribery and conspiracy charges.

Chicago Public Schools has more than 600 schools and serves 400,000 students. The district for the third largest city in the United States has had to make drastic cuts this year as it faces a deficit of up to $1.1 billion.

(Additional reporting, writing by Fiona Ortiz)