*”I am terribly sorry, and I apologize to them. They deserve much more, much more than I gave to them,” Barbara Byrd-Bennet stopped long enough to say to the reporters gathered outside the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago – where she had just pleaded guilty to one-count of wire fraud.
And while the crime would’ve gotten her something like 20 years in prison, her plea-deal promises it will resemble something more like 7-1/2.
The 66-year-old ex-Chicago schools chief was in court on Tuesday to plea for her role in steering millions of dollars from no-bid contracts to the educational consulting firm she previously worked with, SUPES Academy.
The scheme promised her lucrative kickbacks and perks such as reimbursements for events, sports tickets, and cash money.
Byrd-Bennett had little chance of escaping such an embarrassment, as she and her cohorts exchanged no-holds-barred emails; such as one she allegedly sent asking for cash because “She has tuition to pay and casinos to visit.” These were read aloud in court.
She is said to be cooperating with prosecutors and has agreed to postpone her sentencing until after the charges against her co-defendants, the co-owners of SUPES, namely Gary Solomon and his partner Thomas Vranas, have been resolved.
Only moments earlier, Byrd-Bennett had stood at a lectern with her hands folded in front of her as she answered a series of questions from U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang about her background and her desire to plead guilty just days after being charged.
Gary Solomon,SUPES Co-owner, Facebook photo
After listening to a federal prosecutor detail Byrd-Bennett’s involvement in the lucrative kickback scheme, the judge asked her how she intended to plead.
“I plead guilty, your honor,” Byrd-Bennett said in a soft, calm voice.
Byrd-Bennett’s appointment came with glowing epithets from Mayor Rahm Emanuel three years earlier, when he claimed, in October 2012, that she was “the best and the brightest.”
Thomas Vranas, SUPES Co-owner
SUPES owners Gary Solomon, a consultant with ties to the Emanuel administration, and Thomas Vranas, his partner, were also charged in the 23-count indictment, along with SUPES and another education consulting company managed by both men. The men are scheduled to be arraigned at 2 p.m. Wednesday, according to court records.
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