Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the former Chicago Public School Chief who pleaded guilty to corruption and fraud charges and was sent to federal prison Camp Alderson in West Virginia, has recently been moved to a new facility. The 70-year-old Byrd-Bennett was sent to a residential reentry management facility that oversees halfway houses in Cincinnati.
The Bureau of Prisons confirmed the move but otherwise declined comment on why the move occurred when it did. Camp Alderson had been nicknamed Camp Cupcake after Martha Stewart’s stay there several years ago.
Boyd-Bennett and others were embroiled in a kickback scheme for which they were indicted by federal authorities in 2015. Federal prosecutors alleged that Boyd-Bennet and two others participated in a scheme to “defraud and obtain money and property” from the Chicago Public School system. Specifically, Boyd-Bennet was accused of funneling $23 million in a no-bid deal to two companies for which she formerly worked. The two other men indicted in the scheme were owners of those companies. They were funneling a 10% kickback back to Boyd-Bennett for giving them the contracts.
While Boyd-Bennett faced multiple charges, she eventually pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and was sentenced to 54 months at Camp Cupcake. Gary Solomon, who was believed to be the mastermind behind the scheme, was sentenced to 84 months in prison.
If you steal $2.3 million (10% of $23 million) from a bank or another citizen, you will end up in prison for decades. If you steal $2.3 million from taxpayers and school children, you end up doing a little over four years in a minimum-security prison named after a dessert. Of course, how the money was stolen does matter, but in this case, all of the factors appear to be aggravating. The fact that this money was stolen from Chicago’s public school system is not the type of thing a defense attorney would draw attention to during sentencing. It simply makes it worse.
Instead of theft charges, which are filed by the state, Boyd-Bennet faced federal fraud charges that were filed by the federal government, most of the charges were dropped, and she likely exchanged some testimony to gain a reduced plea.
Obviously, a system like this is not what most people would call fair, but those who are conducting these sorts of schemes generally have teams of attorneys to defend them from the charges. They have connections in high places, especially within the city of Chicago and across the state. This is why the feds are required to come in to file and prosecute the charges; the local governments are looking the other way.
Chicago remains one of the feds’ favorite places to file charges against public officials.
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