A scandal that has rocked the Chicago Public Schools is finally coming to a close, as the heads of the SUPES Academy have started to receive prison sentences.
SUPES Academy was an education training firm that was closely tied to the Chicago Public School due to bribes from two of the heads of SUPES, Thomas Vranas and Gary Soloman. In late March, Soloman was sentenced to seven years in prison. Vranas will learn his fate soon. He pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery in April 2016.
Basically, the two led a scheme in which they bribed the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, to offer SUPES $20 million contracts. Byrd-Bennett agreed to the contracts with the promise of future kickbacks, although they never appeared. SUPES is accused of owing Byrd-Bennett hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The deal was made right after she conducted the largest single set of school closures in U.S. history. Fifty schools, primarily in black neighborhoods, had to shut down in 2013.
She pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud for her involvement in the crime. Originally, Byrd-Bennett was indicted on 20 different counts, but they were all dropped (except for the one) as a part of her plea agreement. She is also facing sentencing within the next few weeks, after Vranas’s charges are settled. Byrd-Bennett, however, will receive a “reduced sentence” for her cooperation.
How Are The Penalties for White Collar Crimes Determined?
Gary Soloman was sentenced to seven years in prison – quite a bit longer than was his defense attorney tried for (18 months), but also less than the prosecutor suggested (nine years). Reports say that Vranas will face up to five years in prison, and that Byrd-Bennett is looking at a bit over seven years.
How are sentences and other penalties decided?
The judge has a lot of things to take into consideration when determining the penalties for a white collar crime. While no one is violently, tangibly affected by these crimes, many people are impacted in less obvious ways by the policies, budgets, and other results of the bribes. The factors that go into sentencing may include:
- The counts against the defendant
- The amount of money, goods, or property involved
- The number of people inadvertently affected by the crime(s)
- The defendant’s criminal record
- The defendant’s upbringing and history of behavior
- The defendant’s willingness to cooperate
- Whether or not a plea bargain was negotiated
- The sentence offered by the defense lawyer and/or prosecutors
White collar crimes that rack up a lot of financial damages usually face fines that match the crime, as well as additional financial penalties. Take this case. In addition to their criminal penalties, the three main players in this scandal are likely each looking at millions in fines. Currently, the Chicago Board of Education is seeking $65 million in damages against Byrd-Bennett, Soloman, and Vranas.
With consequences this potentially serious, you want to make sure that you craft the strongest possible defense strategy and fight hard for a positive outcome. That means working with a knowledgeable Chicago white collar crimes lawyer who understands hot these types of cases work and has had past success in getting clients’ charges reduced, dropped, or dismissed.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.