Beverly Campbell (67) will be sentenced tomorrow before U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts in Detroit for her part in stealing money from the Detroit Public School system in a $2.7 million kickback scheme. Campbell is the last of a group of 14 public school employees who were convicted on charges of receiving bribes ad kickbacks from a former vendor of school supplies to the schools. She faces a sentence of  24-30 months in prison for taking $50,000 in bribes and kickbacks. The vendor, Norman Shy, was sentenced to five years in prison for his part in the scheme. Campbell was a school principal.
 
According to federal prosecutors, Shy masterminded the kickback scheme that ran from 2002 through January 2015, in which DPS was billed for $5 million in school supplies but received less than ordered. The leftover money was kept for Shy and his associates. Shy paid bribes and kickbacks to 13 former DPS principals and one assistant superintendent in cash and gift cards totaling $908,518.
 
Campbell had no criminal history. She pleaded guilty on April 28 to one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery. She began her career at DPS in 1986 as a teacher and retired in 2015. Because she cooperated with prosecutors in their investigation, they agreed to a reduced sentence in her case even though a plea agreement had recommended 46-57 months in prison, In a sentencing memo, Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Buckley said fraud is a serious offense. 
 
“Campbell abused the trust placed in her, and made decisions to do business with vendor Norman Shy, motivated by what she personally stood to gain, instead of what was best for her students,” he said.
 
Campbell offered the court a letter in which she apologized to students and staff and asked for their forgiveness. She asked them to use her crime as an example of “what NOT to do.” Campbell wrote, “Let my experience serve as a lesson to you; no matter what position you have in life, when you do what you know is wrong, you will eventually get caught, and there is a price to pay,” she wrote.
 
Another former school principal, Josette Buendia, refused a plea deal and asked to go to trial on December 5. She was indicted by a grand jury in Detroit in two felony counts of federal program bribery and one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery.
 
In all, some $2.7 million were purloined from the public coffers by the conspirators. One principal said that he had fallen “from the grace of God,” while another claimed she spent her cut on students. The court heard testimony over this year that revealed that corruption was a way of life in Detroit public schools. Currently, Detroit Public schools have a debt of $515 million. This is an issue that is separate from the overall debt owed by the city of Detroit. In its 2013 bankruptcy filing, Detroit estimated its debt at approximately $18 to $20 billion. 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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