DPS principal gets two more counts in bribery case
The 12th Detroit Public Schools principal collared in a $2.7 million scheme was charged Wednesday with two additional felony counts of federal bribery.
Josette Buendia, the only holdout in a scandal with 13 co-defendants — who all have entered into plea agreements with prosecutors — faces two counts of federal program bribery in addition to a previous count of bribery conspiracy filed against her in March.
The new counts are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“Josette Buendia has elected to proceed to trial on this matter,” said Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.
Buendia, principal of Bennett Elementary School since 2010, is accused of taking kickbacks and bribes from school supplies vendor Norman Shy. Buendia accepted $40,275 from Shy from 2001 through January 2015, according to the indictment.
A superseding indictment against Buendia alleges that she 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 Shy. It also states Buendia accepted $2,500 on May 5, 2015, from Shy.
FBI investigators say Shy, owner and operator of Allstate Sales, hatched the scheme by offering cash, checks and gift cards to DPS officials in exchange for billing the district for $5 million in business with his company. Shy did not deliver all the items during the scheme that ran from 2002 through January 2015.
In return for the business, Shy allegedly paid bribes and gave kickbacks totaling $908,518.
The scheme deprived DPS students of more than $2.7 million in resources, officials said.
Shy, 11 former Detroit school district principals and one DPS administrator have all pleaded guilty in the case and face sentencing in September.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit says it may go after the state pensions of the DPS officials after they have been sentenced for their crimes. The federal government does not have legal standing to request the forfeiture of their pensions.
Balaya said once the defendants have been sentenced and restitution ordered by the district judge, the government will take steps to enforce the restitution order, which may include garnishment of their pensions.