DETROIT (AP) — A contractor accused of paying kickbacks to get business from Detroit schools pleaded guilty Wednesday and said 12 principals and an administrator charged in the scheme conspired with him to get gift cards or cash.
The corruption probe has rocked the school district at a time when officials are pleading with Michigan lawmakers for a financial rescue to deal with a mountain of debt and years of declining enrollment.
"I paid school officials monies and other things of value for their assistance," Norman Shy, 74, told a judge in Detroit's federal court.
Shy must repay $2.7 million to the district and could face more than five years in prison when he returns to court Sept. 6. As part of his plea, the suburban Detroit man agreed to cooperate with investigators.
"There may have been others," Shy replied when asked about other school officials. "I don't recall."
The government said invoices were submitted by school employees for chairs, paper and other supplies, some of which were never delivered. Shy paid about $900,000 in kickbacks.
Twelve principals and an administrator have been charged, and many already have pleaded guilty. The judge read each person's name aloud and asked Shy to confirm whether they were part of the scheme. He said yes to each.
Ronnie Sims was accused of accepting $58,519, while Gerlma Johnson was accused of accepting about $23,000, mostly in gift cards. They pleaded guilty before Shy appeared in court.
"You weren't supposed to do that, right?" U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts asked Johnson.