DETROIT (AP) — A woman who retired from Detroit Public Schools after nearly 40 years created several companies and billed the struggling district for at least $1.27 million for tutoring services that weren't provided, authorities said Monday.
The case against Carolyn Starkey Darden is more bad publicity for the district, which is pleading for a financial rescue from state lawmakers. Separately, a dozen former or current principals are charged with accepting kickbacks from a longtime contractor.
Darden, a former director of grant development, is charged with theft. She retired from the district in 2005. For seven years, through 2012, she submitted fraudulent invoices for services, according to the government.
The charge was filed in federal court as a "criminal information," which is a negotiated charge that typically leads to a guilty plea. A message seeking comment from Darden's attorney, Gerald Evelyn, wasn't immediately returned.
"Detroit students were cheated twice by this scheme," said David Gelios, head of the FBI in Detroit. "Students that needed tutoring never received it, and money that could have been spent on other resources was paid to (Darden) as part of her fraud scheme."
Agents trying to recover any assets have identified nearly $1 million in a variety of accounts linked to Darden.
Steven Rhodes, a state-appointed manager of the school district, said the alleged crime is "inexcusable."
The case comes while the 45,000-student district is trying to win support in the state Capitol for a bailout before it runs out of money during summer. A Senate plan would pay off hundreds of millions in debt while also creating a new district on paper and returning it to local control.
The House plan isn't as generous. Both chambers are run by Republicans.
The principal scandal involves kickbacks by vendor Norman Shy in exchange for approval for his inflated invoices for chairs, papers and other supplies. Shy has pleaded guilty, and most principals already have admitted guilt or plan to plead guilty.
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