Former Atlanta Public Schools Chief Information Officer Indicted For Accepting Kickbacks
Accused of Awarding Computer Contract to Bidder in Exchange for Bribes
ATLANTA – Jerome Oberlton and Mahendra Patel have been arraigned for allegedly receiving kickback payments in exchange for Oberlton using his influence as Chief Information Officer for Atlanta Public Schools to award a $780,000 computer project.
“As the Chief Information Officer for APS, Oberlton was entrusted with overseeing a program designed to centralize student data,” said United States Attorney Yates. “Rather than ensuring that venders were selected based upon what was best for the school system the defendants are charged with using Oberlton’s public position to line their private pockets.”
“Abusing one’s position of public trust for personal gain should not and will not be tolerated,” stated Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office. “The FBI, in designating public corruption matters as its number one criminal programs priority, asks that anyone with information regarding such activity to contact their nearest FBI field office.”
“What started as a friendship between Mr. Patel and Mr. Oberlton resulted in them lining their pockets with funds obtained illegally through kickbacks,” stated Veronica Hyman-Pillot, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. We are committed to ‘following the money trail’ to ensure that those who engage in these illegal activities are vigorously investigated and brought to justice.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the indictment, and information presented in court: Jerome Oberlton was the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Atlanta Public Schools (APS) between June 2004 and August 2007 and had overall management responsibility for APS’ information technology program. In January 2007, APS issued a request for proposal for a data warehousing project for the school system. The project’s intent was to centralize information relating to APS operations, including student information, by storing it digitally in a secure, easily-accessible manner.
The indictment charges that from the start of the project in January 2007, Oberlton influenced the request for proposal process and ultimately caused the winning bidder to be selected in exchange for kickbacks paid to Oberlton and Patel, who was an acquaintance of Oberlton. In order to hide the bribes, Oberlton created Global Technology Partners and later Global Technology Services and funneled the bribe payments through these shell companies. Oberlton was able to conceal his ownership of Global Technology Partners and Global Technology Services from APS. In contrast, the kickbacks to Patel were disguised as sales commissions for non-existent consulting work. The computer company ultimately paid approximately $60,000 in bribes to Oberlton and Patel for nearly six months and in return the IT company received almost $800,000 in APS project work.
Oberlton, 47, of Dallas, Texas, and Patel, 45, of Kennesaw, Ga., were indicted on May 28, 2013. The defendants are charged with conspiracy to defraud APS, which carries a maximum term of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. They also are charged with conspiracy under color of official right, a money laundering conspiracy, mail fraud, and wire fraud, which each carry a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Oberlton additionally is charged with bribery and money laundering, which each carry a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
The defendants made their initial appearances on June 4, 2013, before United States Magistrate Judge Russell Vineyard and were released on a $25,000 bond.
The public is reminded that criminal charges are only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
These cases are being investigated by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorneys Kurt R. Erskine and Jill E. Steinberg are prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.