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The last of three suspects charged in a kickback scheme at the Education Achievement Authority pleaded guilty to felony charges and agreed to help in the investigation into the troubled district.

Paulette Horton, 60, entered her plea Tuesday to a count of conspiracy to commit program bribery and a charge of failure to file a federal tax return before U.S. District Judge David Lawson.

Horton was an EAA vendor who conspired with former EAA principal Kenyetta Wilbourn Snapp and tutoring vendor Glynis Thornton to take money from the federally funded school district to enrich themselves.

As part of her plea, Horton told Lawson that EAA money went into Thornton’s company, Making a Difference Everyday, which provided after-school tutoring services at Mumford and Denby high schools. The money went into Horton’s business accounts and she paid Snapp a kickback.

Prosecutors said Thornton disguised payments to Snapp by having checks issued payable to Horton’s company, rather than paying Snapp directly. Horton would then deposit and withdraw the money and give it to Snapp.

Under the plea deal, Horton will face up to 33 months in prison on the charges. If she cooperates with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, her sentence could be reduced to 15 months.

Sentencing for Horton is at 3 p.m. June 28.

All three defendants must pay a total of $58,500 in restitution to the EAA as part of their pleas.

Earlier this month, Snapp pleaded guilty to felony charges of bribery conspiracy and federal income tax evasion. The 40-year-old former principal of Mumford and Denby faces 37-46 months in prison under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

If Snapp cooperates with the investigation, prosecutors will reduce her sentence to 20 months. Her sentencing is at 3 p.m. June 1.

Thornton pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy for her role in the kickback scheme. She faces 24-30 months in prison. Thornton’s sentencing is at 3 p.m. June 7.

In December, a federal grand jury in Detroit indicted Snapp, Thornton and Horton, several weeks after the FBI subpoenaed personnel files and bank records or email account information for more than a dozen current and former EAA officials.

Snapp, a turnaround specialist, abruptly resigned in fall 2014 after FBI agents searched her home.

In October, the FBI and the Justice Department subpoenaed personnel files and bank records as well as email account information for more than a dozen current and former EAA officials.

Federal agents also were interested in contracts with vendors who provided educational materials, student-to-student conflict resolution coaching and sporting goods.

Gov. Rick Snyder created the EAA in 2011 as a school district to turn around Detroit’s lowest performing public schools.

It has been widely criticized for misspending, failing to improve academic performance among its K-12 students and declining enrollment. It operates 12 direct-run and three charter schools, all formerly in Detroit Public Schools.

Michigan lawmakers have vowed to close the Education Achievement Authority.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said the EAA will come to an end as legislators consider a $715 million plan to rescue the Detroit Public Schools.

jchambers@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2269

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