CHICAGO (CBS) — Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has pleaded guilty to a bribery scheme to steer more than $23 million in no-bid contracts to a former employer for $2.3 million in bribes and kickbacks.
At her first court appearance on 20 counts of mail fraud and wire fraud, Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, and prosecutors agreed to drop all the other counts.READ MORE: COVID-19 In Illinois: Statewide Coronavirus Cases Drop For Second Consecutive Week
In a strong, clear voice, Byrd-Bennett told U.S. District Judge Edmund Chang the charges prosecutors have outlined against her are true. She had agreed to accept millions of dollars bribes and kickbacks from SUPES Academy and its owners, Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas, in exchange for SUPES getting more than $23 million in contracts to train principals at the Chicago Public Schools.
Byrd-Bennett, 66, worked as a consultant for SUPES Academy before she was hired at the Chicago Public Schools in April 2012. She is the first Chicago Public Schools chief executive to face criminal charges in connection with the job.
After pleading guilty, Byrd-Bennett briefly met with reporters, saying she had a message for the children of CPS, their parents, and their teachers.
“I am terribly sorry, and I apologize to them. They deserved much more; much more than I gave to them,” she said.