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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Michigan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, December 9, 2016

Former Detroit Public Schools Principal Convicted on Bribery Charges

A former Detroit Public Schools principal of was convicted at a jury trial today in an illegal bribery and kickback scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade.

Joining McQuade in the announcement were David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Manny Muriel, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.

Josette Buendia, 51, of Garden City, Michigan, the principal at Bennett Elementary School, was found guilty on all three charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery charges, ending a five-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Buendia conspired with Norman Shy, 75, owner of Allstate Sales, a vendor of school supplies.  From November 2011 through January 2015, Buendia knowingly certified and submitted fraudulent invoices to DPS, causing DPS to pay Shy for materials that the school did not receive, or that the school only received a portion of the materials.  Invoiced supplies included supplemental teaching materials and raised line paper.  In exchange, Shy paid bribes and kickbacks to Buendia in the form of gift cards and cash, using a portion of the payments he received from DPS from the fraudulent invoices. The bribes and kickback Buendia received totaled approximately $46,000. 

Buendia faces up to five years in prison when she is sentenced on April 6, 2017, at 2:30 pm.

“This principal accepted bribes in exchange for shortchanging the school district,” McQuade said.  “Regardless of what she did with the money, Detroit Public Schools and the students paid the price.” 

“Today’s verdict reinforces the message we want everyone to understand as a result of the Detroit Public School's corruption investigation:   Anyone who attempts to enrich oneself at the expense of school children will be prosecuted," said David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Detroit Division.  "The FBI will continue to work with the Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate and prosecute the misapplication of public funds intended to educate our kids.”

“Josette Buendia’s actions violated the trust and confidence of the parents and students of Bennett Elementary School,” said Special Agent in Charge Manny Muriel, IRS – Criminal Investigation.  “Today’s verdict should send a loud and clear message that the community expects their hard earned tax dollars to be used to educate our children and not to line the pockets of school officials.”

This case was investigated by agents of the FBI and IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys J. Michael Buckley and Frances Carlson.

The FBI Detroit Area Corruption Task Force (DACTF) is led by the FBI Detroit Field Office, and consists of Special Agents and law enforcement officers with the FBI Detroit; the Detroit Police Department; the Michigan State Police; the Michigan Attorney General’s Office; the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development–Office of Inspector General; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency–Office of Inspector General; the U.S. Department of Transportation–Office of Inspector General; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security–Office of Inspector General; the U.S. Department of Education–Office of Inspector General; and the U.S. Department of Labor–Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

Topic(s): 
Public Corruption
Updated December 9, 2016