Detroit Principals Accused of Kickback Scam | Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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Wednesday, November 29, 2023 | Back issues
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Detroit Principals Accused of Kickback Scam

DETROIT (CN) - An elderly school-supplies vendor is at the center of bribery and kickback allegations that brought federal criminal complaints against 13 current or former Detroit Public Schools principals.

Auditorium chairs and raised-line paper - these are just some of the goods that prosecutors say were invoiced but never actually ordered by principals across the city.

From 2002 to January 2015, the bogus orders brought $2.7 million to vendor Allstate Sales, and that company's owner, 74-year-old Norman Shy in turn paid $908,518 in kickbacks to the 13 principals with whom he co-conspired, the charging documents say.

Clara Flowers, 61, is the only administrator named in the criminal information against Shy.

A Detroit resident and former principal of Henderson Academy, Flowers is the current assistant superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Office of Specialized Student Services, according to the information.

She earned $324,785 in kickbacks.

In addition to a bribery conspiracy charge that they share with the other 12 defendants, Shy and Flowers also face one count of tax evasion.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a statement that it deals "a heavy blow to public confidence when so many school principals are charged with bribery."

The conspiracy charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. A conviction for tax evasion could bring another five years prison time and $100,000 in fines for Flowers and Franklin, Mich.-based Shy.

A list of 11 other current and former principals charged follows.

Prosecutors say Beverly Campbell, 66, of Southfield, made $50,000 from the scheme. Campbell is the former principal of Rosa Parks School and Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle School.

Clara Smith, 67, of Southfield, allegedly made $194,000. She is the current principal of Thirkell Elementary-Middle School.

Germla Johnson, 56, of Detroit, made $22,884, according to the charging papers. Johnson is the former principal of Charles R. Drew Academy and current principal of Earhart Elementary-Middle School.

Marcus Garvey Academy principal James Hearn, 50, of West Bloomfield, made $11,500, his charging papers say.

Bennett Elementary School principal Josette Buendia, 50, of Garden City, made $45,775, according to his information.

Nina Graves-Hicks, 52, of Detroit, allegedly made $27,385 from the scheme. She is the former principal of Davis Aerospace Technical High School.

Charles L. Spain Elementary-Middle School principal Ronald Alexander, 60, of Detroit, is accused of accepting $23,000.

Ronnie Sims, 55, of Albion, is the former principal of Fleming Elementary and Brenda Scott Middle School. Prosecutors say Sims made $58,519.

Hutchinson Elementary principal Stanley Johnson, 62, of Southfield, allegedly made $84,170.

Tanya Bowman, 48, of Novi, is the former principal of Osborn Collegiate Academy of Mathematics, Science and Technology. Prosecutors say she made $12,500.

Jerry L. White Center High School principal Tia'von Moore-Patton, 46, of Farmington Hills, made $4,000, according to the information.

Former Thurgood Marshall Elementary School principal Willye Pearsall, 65, of Warren is accused of making $50,000.

"To enrich oneself at the expense of school children is bad enough, but to misapply public funds intended to educate kids in a district where overall needs are so deep, funding sources are so strained, and the need for better education is so crucial, is reprehensible and an insult to those educators working every day to make a better future for our children," David Gelios, FBI special agent in charge for the Detroit Division, said in a statement.

The charges follow a January guilty plea to bribery by former DPS principal Kenyetta Weillburn Snapp.

Wayne County prosecutors charged Rudolfo Diaz, principle of Western International High School, with embezzlement in July 2015.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bipartisan bill Tuesday that grants the school system the funds necessary for their schools to remain open for the remainder of the school year.

"This continues to demonstrate that the challenges at DPS aren't just Detroit's problem, they are concerns for all of Michigan," Snyder said in a statement. "We are committed to academic improvement and long-term financial stability at DPS."

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