CHICAGO (CBS)– Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has been transferred out of a federal prison in West Virginia and her attorney said she is serving the remainder of her term in home confinement in Ohio.
Byrd-Bennett, 70, began serving a 4.5-year prison sentence at the minimum security Alderson Federal Prison Camp in August 2017, nearly two years after pleading guilty to one count of mail fraud for steering more than $23 million in no-bid contracts from CPS to her former employer, SUPES Academy, in exchange for $2.3 million in kickbacks. However, Byrd-Bennett never pocketed any proceeds from the scheme.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, she has since been transferred to the custody of the Cincinnati Residential Reentry Management office, which oversees halfway houses and home confinement in the Cincinnati area. Her projected release date is June 28, 2021.
Byrd-Bennett’s lawyer, Erica Zunkel, confirmed she will serve the remainder of her sentence in home confinement in Ohio.
“She’s thrilled to be home and reunited with her family,” Zunkel said.
Before coming to CPS, Byrd-Bennett spent several years as CEO of the Cleveland Municipal School District.
“I’m extremely happy to be home. I’m thankful for my family, friends, legal counsel, and all who assisted and supported me during this time,” she said in a statement provided by her attorney.
In 2013, SUPES received a $20.5 million no-bid contract from the Chicago Board of Education to provide principal training for the Chicago Public Schools. SUPES also received more than $2 million in earlier contracts for a pilot program while Byrd-Bennett was the district’s chief education officer. In return for steering the contracts to SUPES, Byrd-Bennett allegedly was guaranteed a percentage of the money from the deal once she left CPS and returned to work at SUPES.
SUPES owners Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas offered Byrd-Bennett money, tickets to sporting events, and other kickbacks in exchange for the contracts with CPS.
According to the indictment, Byrd-Bennett sent Solomon an email about their plans, saying, “I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit.”
Solomon, 52, who pocketed more than $5 million from the scheme, is serving a 7-year prison sentence in Duluth, Minnesota.
Vranas, 39, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, and was released from custody in November 2018, according to the Bureau of Prisons.