Montgomery, Alabama – On Tuesday, August 10, 2021, Walter James, III, a 50-year-old from Montgomery, Alabama, and former Montgomery Public Schools (MPS) employee, was sentenced to 60 months in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud, announced Acting United States Attorney Sandra J. Stewart, FBI Special Agent in Charge James Jewell, and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. Following James’ prison sentence, he will serve three years of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system. James was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $314,867.55 to MPS for the monetary losses his scheme cost their system.
According to court documents and testimony provided in open court, James held himself out to be the owner of a consulting company, "ED-ONE Professional Development Services,” while he was employed by the MPS system. He then worked in partnership with others at his high school and the MPS central office to submit fraudulent invoices for consulting or professional development services. The invoices that were submitted listed vague descriptions of the types of services that had been supposedly provided. For example, the invoices would include descriptions such as “books & materials,” “consulting,” or “three-day workshop.” In reality, James did not provide any professional development services or products of any kind to MPS, nor did any of the purported consulting companies on the corresponding invoices that James submitted for payment. During the sentencing hearing, the court determined that the scheme, which occurred from August 2016 to April 2019, created a loss of $314,867.55 to MPS. James was ordered to pay restitution in that amount to MPS.
“It is such an outrageous violation of the public trust when people responsible for the education of our children cheat taxpayers and line their own pockets instead of benefitting students who, in this great country, are entitled to a public education,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Stewart. “Now, more than ever, it is critical that funds allocated to public schools make it to the classroom and are used to educate students. In this case, James ignored his responsibility to spend government funds on the children and he deprived both students and teachers of much needed resources. I hope this prosecution sends a strong message to all those educators who put themselves above the needs of our children and their teachers that they will be held accountable.”
“Employees of our nation’s educational system must hold themselves to a higher standard,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Jewell. “The strong partnerships we enjoy with our state and local partners ensure this type of criminal activity will be detected and dealt with accordingly.”
“Public employees are entrusted to be stewards of taxpayer funds,” said Attorney General Marshall. “When that trust is broken, not only are public resources diminished but the community’s faith in our government is undermined. Mr. James repeatedly stole considerable funds from the Montgomery Public School System and his acts have eroded citizens’ confidence in their local schools. His sentence should send an unmistakable message that those who violate the public trust will be held accountable.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, the Alabama Ethics Commission, and the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts investigated this case. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Govan and Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Ross prosecuted the case.