Athens municipal school administrator convicted of virtual education fraud

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (WRBL) – On March 18, 2022, U.S. Attorney Alice S. LaCour, FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr., and FBI Special Agent in Charge Reginald J. France announced that the municipal school administrator of ‘Athens, William Richard Carter Jr., 46, had been convicted of participating in a scheme to defraud the Alabama State Department of Education.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Carter conspired with other school officials to fraudulently enroll students in virtual public schools and deceptively report those students to the state Department of Education. of Alabama to receive additional funding.

Carter’s co-conspirators include former Superintendent Dr. William L. Holiday III of the Athens City School District, David Webb Tutt of Uniontown, Alabama, Gregory Earl Corkren of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and former Superintendent Thomas Michael Sisk of the Limestone County School District.

During Carter’s four-week trial, the jury considered evidence that Carter and his co-conspirators obtained identities of students at private schools across the state, particularly private schools in the area of the Alabama black belt, for their scheme.

“Today’s verdict is the result of hard investigative work by my office and our partners,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp. “The FBI will continue to work to hold accountable officials who betray the citizens of their community by abusing their positions of trust for personal gain.”

Defendants offered private schools direct payments, computers, and access to an online program to encourage schools to share student records and other identifying information with public school districts.

Several former students and parents of private school students testified between 2016 and 2018, the years the scheme occurred, they had little or no connection to the schools where they were allegedly enrolled.

At the time of the program, the parents of these students continued to pay for their children to attend private schools.

Additionally, the Alabama State Department of Education held a meeting with Athens Municipal School officials to inform them that private school students were listed as enrolled in public schools and asked school officials to correct the problem.

Evidence presented at trial showed that instead of following advice provided by the Alabama State Department of Education, Carter and his co-conspirators hid the problem and continued with their scheme.

“Today’s action shows that this former school official not only knowingly and deliberately abused his position of trust for his own personal gain, but did so to the detriment of the educational development of the children. This is unacceptable,” said USDOE-OIG Special Agent in Charge Reginald J. France. “Rightly, Mr. Carter will be held accountable for misleading Alabama students and taxpayers.

As part of Carter and his co-defendants’ scheme, they produced fake report cards and fake addresses for students residing outside of Alabama. They also submitted falsified course completion reports to the state department of education.

When presented with the forged report cards and end-of-course reports during the trial, parents and former students testified that they had never seen them before and did not know any of the teachers enrolled in them.

The submission of the false documentation allowed payments from the Athens City School District and Limestone County School District Alabama Education Trust Fund to proceed.

After receiving payment, Carter and his co-defendants took part of the state funding for personal use.

They transferred the money through direct cash payments and payments to third-party contractors owed by multiple co-conspirators.

During the program, school districts potentially lost about $10 million. The jury found Carter guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit fraud, four counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated impersonation.

Carter faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, financial penalties and restitution. He also faces a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence for each count of aggravated identity theft.

Co-defendants Holladay III, Corkren, Tutt and Sisk, had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government. Corkren also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft.

“We trust every educator to make teaching our children the top priority,” said Alice S. LaCour, acting United States Attorney in the case. “In this case, Mr. Carter breached that trust and put profit before student welfare. I am proud of the work of law enforcement officers who have spent countless hours uncovering the heartbreaking fraud perpetuated by Mr. Carter and his co-conspirators.

Martha K. Merrill