(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 charged Tyrone Pipkin in New Orleans last November with conspiracy to defraud the E-Rate program by bribing school officials in Louisiana, Arkansas and Illinois between 2001 and 2005. As co-owner of Global Networking Technologies, Pipkin’s bribes secured his role as the E-Rate contractor to the school districts.
“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,” the bill of information against Pipkin says.
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 resulted in the guilty pleas, settlements or convictions of seven companies and 22 people.
Pipkin faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy charge.