Ex-Chicago Public School chief pleads guilty

Story highlights

  • Barbara Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in bribery scandal
  • Byrd-Bennett used her job to channel no-bid contracts to her former employers, DOJ says

(CNN)The former head of Chicago Public Schools pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to using her position to channel no-bid contracts worth more than $23 million to her former employers in exchange for bribes and kickbacks, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

In a written plea agreement, 66-year-old Barbara Byrd-Bennett admitted that she steered the contracts to two education consulting firms, the Supes Academy and Synesi Associates. Byrd-Bennett, the DOJ said, expected to receive cash kickbacks from the companies, as well as a consulting job at Supes after she retired from Chicago schools.
The kickbacks were supposed to be paid to her in the form of a "signing bonus" on the first day of her new employment, the plea agreement says.
    She had worked for Supes and Synesi before being hired by Chicago Public Schools in May 2012.
    She was facing 15 counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud, Zachary T. Fardon, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said earlier.
    But on Tuesday, the plea agreement stipulated that she was pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud. She faces up to 20 years in prison, mandatory restitution and a maximum fine of $250,000.
    A judge will impose the sentence and a hearing is scheduled for January 27, 2016.
    Byrd-Bennett resigned in May, a month after the school system acknowledged that officials had been served federal grand jury subpoenas, the Chicago Tribune reported.