Former Detroit Public Schools Principal Sentenced on Bribery Charges
A former Detroit Public Schools principal was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison and was ordered to pay restitution to the Detroit Public Schools in the amount of $45,775, as a result of having been convicted by a federal jury in an illegal bribery and kickback scheme, announced Acting United States Attorney Daniel L. Lemisch.
Joining Lemisch 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, after 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.
"Following years of investigation, the FBI’s Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force was able to expose and end a disturbing culture of corrupt activity involving 13 Detroit Public School Principals to include an Assistant Superintendent, said David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Division of the FBI. “These principals, including an Assistant Superintendent, used their positions as educators and leaders to enrich themselves at the expense of their students and the Detroit Public Schools system. Today’s sentencing of Principal Josette Buendia, the last in this investigation, should provide a sense of closure for the parents, students and the honest and dedicated DPS employees and underscores this community’s commitment to integrity in the operation of our schools”.
Manny Muriel, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation stated, “No matter what your position, it is unacceptable to help yourself to other people’s money and violate their trust. If you commit a crime, status as an educator or leader will not protect you from federal prosecution. Today's action demonstrates our collective efforts to enforce the law and ensure public trust.”
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