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Press Release

BISD VP indicted

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The vice president of the Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) Board of Trustees is now in custody on charges of conspiracy and corruption, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

A federal grand jury returned the eight-count indictment Dec. 10 against Sylvia P. Atkinson, 48, of Brownsville. It was unsealed as authorities took her into custody upon her arrival for a scheduled BISD meeting last night. She is expected to make her initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald G. Morgan today at 10 a.m.

The charges allege Atkinson was elected to the BISD Board Nov. 4, 2016, and appointed vice president in 2018. During her career in education, she has served as the superintendent of Socorro, Santa Rosa and Los Fresnos school districts, assistant superintendent of BISD and Rio Hondo ISD (RHISD) and is currently the executive director of High School Programs and Community Outreach at Texas Southmost College, according to the indictment.  

The charges allege a long-running criminal scheme to solicit bribes from vendors seeking to obtain contracts with BISD and RHISD. The contracts would provide various goods and services to the school districts, including computer tablets, medical teleconferencing services and tutorial services, according to the indictment. In 2018, Atkinson also allegedly solicited and received a $10,000 bribe from an undercover agent related to a film crew’s potential use of BISD facilities for filming a purported Hollywood movie.

Atkinson is charged with one count each of conspiracy, bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds as well as six counts of violation of the Travel Act. For the conspiracy and each Travel Act violation, she faces up the five years in prison, while the bribery charge carries a possible 10-year term of imprisonment, upon conviction.

The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jody Young and Robert S. Johnson are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Updated December 11, 2019

Public Corruption