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Businessman Admits Bribery Conspiracy

(CN) - The former owner of an Illinois technology company pleaded guilty Monday to defrauding a federal program that gives technology subsidies to low-income school districts.

Federal prosecutors in New Orleans charged Tyrone Pipkin in November 2010 with conspiring to defraud the E-Rate program by bribing school officials in Louisiana, Arkansas and Illinois from 2001 to 2005.

As co-owner of Global Networking Technologies, Pipkin's bribes secured his role as the E-Rate contractor to the school districts, prosecutors said.

"One of the principal objectives of the E-Rate program is to encourage economically disadvantaged schools to install and upgrade their Internet and communications infrastructure and to provide their students with access to the Internet as a learning tool," according to the bill of information against Pipkin.

The E-Rate program is overseen by the Federal Communications Commission, and as part of the process, "each applicant school must seek competitive bids for the work for which they are requesting E-Rate funding," according to the complaint.

A probe of E-Rate fraud by the Justice Department's antitrust division has brought guilty pleas, settlements or convictions of seven companies and 22 people.

Pipkin faces up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy.

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