Athens Municipal School Administrator Found Guilty of Virtual Education Fraud Scheme | USAO-MDAL
Montgomery, Alabama. – On March 18, 2022, Athens City Schools Administrator William Richard (“Rick”) Carter, Jr., 46, was convicted for his role in a scheme to defraud the Department of Alabama State Education (ALSDE), announced Acting United States Attorney Alice S. LaCour, FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr., and Special Agent in Charge Reginald J. France of the U.S. Department of Education Inspector General Southeast Regional Office.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Carter conspired with other school officials to fraudulently enroll students in public virtual schools, then falsely reported those students to the state Department of Education. of Alabama in order to illegally receive additional funds for education. Carter’s co-conspirators include former Superintendent of the City of Athens Schools District, Dr. William L. (“Trey”) Holladay, III; David Webb Tutt, of Uniontown, Alabama; Gregory (“Greg”) Earl Corkren, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama; and former Limestone County School District Superintendent Thomas Michael Sisk.
During Carter’s four-week trial, the jury heard evidence that he and his co-defendants obtained student identities to use in their scheme from various private schools located across the state, particularly schools private from the black belt region of Alabama. The defendants offered private schools computers, direct payments and online curriculum access to persuade them to share their students’ school records and personal identifying information with public school districts. Several private school parents and alumni testified that during the school years the program took place, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018, they had little or no connection to the public school districts in which they served. supposed to be registered. Parents continued to pay tuition for private schools, and students continued to attend physical private schools daily, receiving instruction from teachers at those private schools.
Testimony was also provided about a meeting with ALSDE in March 2016, during which the state informed Athens Municipal School officials that private school students were mistakenly listed as enrolled in public schools and ordered Athens school officials to correct the problem. However, evidence presented at trial showed that instead of following this advice, Carter and his co-conspirators took steps to cover up and continue their scheme. For example, they created fake report cards, fabricated fake addresses for private school students who lived outside of Alabama, and submitted falsified class completion reports to the state Department of Education. When shown the fake report cards and completion reports during the trial, parents and former students testified that they had never seen them before and did not know any of the teachers who were enrolled there.
The presentation of these forged documents allowed continued payments from the Alabama Education Trust Fund to the Athens City Schools District and the Limestone County Schools District. Carter and his co-conspirators then received, for their own personal use, some of the state funding. They skimmed state money through direct cash payments and payments to third-party contractors belonging to the various co-conspirators. During the scheme, the total potential loss was approximately $10 million.
The jury found Carter guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated impersonation. At a later date, Carter will be sentenced. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, as well as substantial monetary penalties and restitution. He also faces a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence for each count of aggravated identity theft. Co-defendants William L. Holladay, III, Gregory Earl Corkren, David Webb Tutt and Thomas Michael Sisk, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government. Gregory Corkren also pleaded guilty to aggravated impersonation.
“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.
“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.”
“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.
“Integrity and trust are common traits among Alabama teachers and administrators,” said Alabama State Department of Education Superintendent Dr. Eric G. Mackey. “While this case saddens educators around the world, the State Department of Education is proud to have worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Education (OIG ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office to bring this fraud to light. When the board selected me as superintendent, I made it clear that the fundamental principles of my administration would be integrity and transparency.The US Attorney, FBI and OIG, like us, are committed to ensuring that every taxpayer dollar is accounted for and every classroom dollar is spent on the classroom. We appreciate their hard work and dedication throughout the investigation and judgment.
This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Office of Inspector General of the United States Department of Education, with assistance from the Office of the Attorney General of the United States. ‘Alabama. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan S. Ross, Alice S. LaCour, and Brett J. Talley prosecuted the case.