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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Indiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 14, 2017

Vigo County School Corporation official found guilty in federal court

Stole more than $110,000 from Vigo County taxpayers

PRESS RELEASE

Indianapolis – United States Attorney Josh Minkler announced today that a former Vigo County School Corporation official, Franklin V. Fennell, 49, Terre Haute, was found guilty in federal court on fraud, bribery and false statement charges following a three-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson.

“Public officials are supposed to serve the public, not the other way around,” said Minkler. “When greed becomes more important than serving the public, there are consequences and my office will hold offenders accountable.”

Fennell was the facilities director at the Vigo County School Corporation (VCSC). His duties included the maintenance and service at all VCSC locations and facilities, including schools. Fennell routinely submitted requisitions to the VCSC business office which in turn created purchase orders that were sent to vendors authorizing work. The vendor would then be paid after the work was completed.

From April 2014 through October 2016, Fennell and co-defendant, Frank Shahadey instructed a Terre Haute area businessman to submit false and fraudulent invoices for work performed for the VCSC by either inflating the cost of the work or seeking payment for work that was either not performed, or was done by another business. Once paid by the VCSC based on the false and fraudulent invoices, the businessman kicked back a portion of the ill-gotten gains to Fennell and Shahadey and retained a portion for his personal benefit.

As a result of this fraud scheme, Fennell and Shahadey received kickbacks of more than $110,000.  When confronted by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding this fraudulent scheme, Fennell made various false statements in a futile effort to exculpate himself.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"This conviction affirms that the FBI has zero tolerance for public corruption and considers it a top criminal priority," said W. Jay Abbott, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Indianapolis Division. "We are dedicated to eradicating public corruption at all levels of government and our agents will continue to work diligently to pursue those public officials whose greed erodes the confidence and trust of taxpayers."

Fennell’s co-defendant, Frank Shahadey, was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment in October 2017, after pleading guilty to wire fraud and theft charges based on his involvement in this scheme.

According to Assistant United States Attorneys Tiffany Preston and Nicholas Linder who prosecuted this case for the government, Fennell could face up to 20 years’ imprisonment. 

No sentencing date has been set.

            In October 2017, United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced a Strategic Plan designed to shape and strengthen the District’s response to its most significant public safety challenges.  This prosecution sentencing demonstrates the office’s firm commitment to detect and prosecute matters involving public corruption, (See United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Indiana Strategic Plan, Section 5.3)

 

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Updated December 14, 2017