Former APS Chief Information Officer Pleads Guilty to Accepting Kickbacks
ATLANTA – Former Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Chief Information Officer (CIO) Jerome Oberlton has pleaded guilty to conspiring to receive kickbacks in exchange for using his influence at APS to award a $780,000 project to a computer vendor.
“Mr. Oberlton abused his position as APS’ Chief Information Officer when he took payoffs in exchange for the award of a lucrative computer contract,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “His fraud diverted scarce educational resources from the APS students who needed them to a vendor that was willing to pay to play.”
“IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to provide its investigative resources and expertise in exposing kickback schemes like the one Mr. Oberlton helped to orchestrate” stated Special Agent in Charge, Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot. “We stand committed to weed out individuals who ignore the public's well-being and choose to take the path to financial success by using greed and corruption.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the indictment, and information presented in court: Oberlton had overall management responsibility for APS’ information technology program. In January 2007, APS issued a request for proposal (RFP) for a Data Warehousing (DW) project at the school system. The DW project was intended to centralize information relating to APS operations, including student information, so that it was maintained digitally in a secure, easily-accessible manner.
From the start of the project in January 2007, Oberlton and co-defendant Mahendra Patel conspired to influence the RFP process for the DW project, and, ultimately, caused the winning bidder to be selected in exchange for kickbacks paid to Oberlton and Patel. While Patel did not work for APS, he had connections with a Detroit-based technology company that received the contract through the corrupted RFP process. In order to hide the bribes, Oberlton created two shell companies, Global Technology Partners (GTP) and, later, Global Technology Services (GTS), and funneled the bribe payments through these shell companies. Oberlton was able to conceal his ownership of GTP and GTS from APS even when questions arose in 2007. The kickbacks to Patel were disguised as sales commissions for non-existent consulting work that he supposedly performed for the shell companies. In reality, Patel acted as an intermediary, helping to negotiate the kickbacks between Oberlton and the Detroit-based technology company and then signed fake sales consultant agreements to hide his role. The Detroit-based technology company ultimately paid approximately $60,000 in bribes to Oberlton over almost six months and, in return, the company received $780,000 in APS project work.
Oberlton was the CIO for APS between June 2004 and August 2007 and, most recently, was the Chief of Staff for the Dallas Independent School District before he resigned in May 2013, shortly after he was indicted.
Oberlton, 48, of Atlanta, Ga., pleaded guilty to conspiring with Patel and others to accept bribes, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of $250,000. The parties have recommended to the Court that Oberlton receive a sentence of 41 months’ imprisonment, pay $735,130 in restitution and perform 1,000 hours of community service. 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. Sentencing is scheduled for March 24, 2014.
Mahendra Patel, 45, of Kennesaw, Ga., pleaded guilty on August 16, 2013, to conspiring with Oberlton to accept bribes.
These cases are being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service.
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.