Over a dozen rotten school officials allegedly robbed Detroit Public Schools of over $2 million.
Bribery charges were filed against 14 individuals, including an assistant superintendent, current and former school principals and, at the center of the scheme, Detroit Public Schools vendor Norman Shy, U.S Attorney Barbara McQuade announced Tuesday.
“The documents allege that Norman Shy conspired with the 13 individual school officials,” McQuade said about Shy, owner of Franklin-based Allstate Sales. “He paid bribes to each of those school officials.”
Shy would submit fraudulent invoices for school supplies like chairs and paper that were never delivered, totaling over $900,000, which the principals would approve.
“In exchange he received payments for $5 million and of that we believe $2.7 million was fraudulent,” McQuade revealed. “So the loss to Detroit Public Schools is around $2.7 million.”
Bribes were paid to school officials in the form of cash, gift cards and checks, McQuade added, “sometimes to third parties and businesses owned by the principals.”
One of the school officials allegedly involved in the bribery and kickback scheme, which began in 2002 and continued until January 2015, is Ronald Alexander, the principal of Charles L. Spain Elementary-Middle School, who was coined “the most amazing man” on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Just last month, Alexander appeared on the show via video and, after discussing the extremely poor conditions of the school, from the crumbling roof to the dilapidated gym, the show made a donation of $500,000.
DeGeneres even had pop star Justin Bieber surprise the principal and the students when he announced that $1 of every ticket sold from an upcoming concert in the area would also be given to the school.
“Of all the people in the whole world, I am the happiest principal on Earth,” Alexander said at the time. “I love you! I love you again! This is the best.”
While the charges against Alexander are not related to the donations received from the show, he allegedly took $23,000 in kickbacks and bribes.
Another school official being charged is the assistant superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools’ Office of Specialized Student Services, Clara Flowers, who allegedly conspired with Shy and received $324,785 in kickbacks in exchange for using him as the district’s vendor.
As Detroit Public Schools continue falling apart, Flowers reportedly used some of the funds to pay contractors for her home renovations.
Both Flowers and Shy are also being charged with tax evasion for failing to report income.
As the investigation unfolds, all business with Shy and his companies have been suspended and the current principals being charged have been suspended without pay.
“A case like this is a real punch in the gut for those who are trying to do the right thing,” McQuade said. “Public corruption never comes at a good time.”