Detroit – A former Detroit principal convicted in a widespread corruption scandal must report to federal prison Monday, a federal appeals court panel said.
Josette Buendia had hoped to remain free on bond while appealing her conviction and two-year prison sentence for pocketing more than $40,000 in bribes and kickbacks from a former Detroit Public Schools vendor.
Buendia, who claimed she spent the money on students and teachers, failed to raise a substantial issue in her request to remain free on bond, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided Thursday.
“The district court did not infringe on Buendia’s right to present her defense because her allegedly altruistic motive was immaterial to proving her commission of the offense,” the panel wrote.
Buendia was convicted by a federal jury in December of federal program bribery in a $2.7 million kickback scheme in connection with vendor Norman Shy and 12 other district officials.
The decision comes two months after the Michigan Attorney General’s office seized part of Buendia’s pension. Buendia’s pension was slashed by $866.20 per month, or $10,304.40 per year.
The money secured by the AG’s office will go back to the State Public School Employee Pension Fund for state-paid pension contributions.
Buendia was principal of Bennett Elementary School.
Federal officials said Buendia took $3,000 from Shy on Feb. 9, 2015, in the form of a prepaid gift card and “intended to be influenced and rewarded” with a series of payments from him. They also allege Buendia accepted $2,500 from Shy on May 5, 2015.
Buendia’s lawyer told the jury her client was a victim of DPS’ broken system and she used the money from Shy for her students and teachers.