Former Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO likely headed to prison

Former head of CLE schools is headed to prison

DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The former leader of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Barbara Byrd Bennett, will be sentenced on Friday for crimes committed while she
was CEO of Chicago Schools.

Her sentencing memorandum shows she admitted what she did and apologized. But details of what she did paint a grim picture of her corruption. That story is told in a government sentencing memo.

In October 2015, Byrd Bennett was indicted in Federal Court in Chicago, charged with awarding millions of dollars to a company she had previously worked for -- SUPES Academy. Prosecutors say the understanding was that when she left Chicago Schools she would get a kickback and her job with SUPES back.

The sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors outlines the enormity of the fraud.

A 2012 consulting contract was awarded to SUPES for just more than $2 million. Byrd Bennett was to receive a quarter-million dollars when she went back to SUPES. The next year, a more-than $20 million sole-source contract went to SUPES.

Byrd Bennett sent an email to the company brass, and said: "Anything you can provide to me or a designated person relative to the future, college and weddings for the boys might be helpful."

That contract raised concerns of a man in Chicago Schools named Steve Gering. The prosecutors sentencing memo says she basically fired him, and
installed loyal friends in high-level positions. The paperwork goes on, saying Byrd Bennett lied to staff saying in a memo.

That memo read: "I am receiving no financial benefits from the potential engagement (with SUPES)."

By 2015, two FBI agents knocked on her door.

They reported she lied to them, saying at a press briefing: "She misled other Officials about contracts. She repeatedly hit and concealed her financial interests in these contracts from the Chicago Board of Education."

All in all the value of the bribes is calculated at $2.9 million. That should earn her between 135 and 168 months in prison.

Because of her "substantial cooperation," prosecutors will recommend an 89-month term. Her attorneys feel 42 months is appropriate.

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