DETROIT, MI – A former Detroit Public Schools principal was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison and was ordered to pay restitution to the Detroit Public Schools in the amount of $45,775, as a result of having been convicted by a federal jury in an illegal bribery and kickback scheme.
Josette Buendia, 51-years-old, of Garden City, the principal at Bennett Elementary School, was found guilty on all three charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery charges, after a five-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh.
According to the evidence presented at trial, Buendia conspired with Norman Shy, 75, owner of Allstate Sales, a vendor of school supplies. From November 2011 through January 2015, Buendia knowingly certified and submitted fraudulent invoices to DPS, causing DPS to pay Shy for materials that the school did not receive, or that the school only received a portion of the materials. Invoiced supplies included supplemental teaching materials and raised line paper. In exchange, Shy paid bribes and kickbacks to Buendia in the form of gift cards and cash, using a portion of the payments he received from DPS from the fraudulent invoices. The bribes and kickback Buendia received totaled approximately $46,000.
“Following years of investigation, the FBI’s Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force was able to expose and end a disturbing culture of corrupt activity involving 13 Detroit Public School Principals to include an Assistant Superintendent, said David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Division of the FBI. “These principals, including an Assistant Superintendent, used their positions as educators and leaders to enrich themselves at the expense of their students and the Detroit Public Schools system. Today’s sentencing of Principal Josette Buendia, the last in this investigation, should provide a sense of closure for the parents, students and the honest and dedicated DPS employees and underscores this community’s commitment to integrity in the operation of our schools”.
Manny Muriel, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation stated, “No matter what your position, it is unacceptable to help yourself to other people’s money and violate their trust. If you commit a crime, status as an educator or leader will not protect you from federal prosecution. Today’s action demonstrates our collective efforts to enforce the law and ensure public trust.”