OIG: Office of Inspector General
   Current Section

Investigation Report

U.S. Department of Justice
November 29,2007

Jeffrey A. Taylor
United States Attorney
for the District of Columbia

Judiciary Center
555 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

For Information Contact Public Affairs
Channing Phillips (202) 514-6933

Former top District Charter Schools Official Sentenced to Prison for Embezzlement, Kickbacks, and Tax Evasion

Washington, D.C. — A former top official in the D.C. Public Schools responsible for charter school oversight, Brenda Belton, was sentenced today to 35 months of incarceration in connection with her corrupt scheme to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars from D.C. public charter schools serving predominantly low-income, African-American students, announced U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor, U.S. Department of Education Inspector General John Higgins, Special Agent in Charge Francis L. Turner, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, District of Columbia Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby, and District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi.

Belton, 61, of Washington, D.C., had pleaded guilty on August 9, 2007, before U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina to two felony counts of Theft from a Program Receiving Federal Funds; one felony count of Federal Tax Evasion; and one felony count of District of Columbia Tax Evasion. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Belton faced a likely sentence of 30 to 37 months in prison. She was sentenced today at the top of that range: 35 months. Judge Urbina also ordered Belton to pay $383,910.25 in restitution.

According to the government's statement of facts presented to the Court and agreed to by the defendant, from between March 2003 through May 2006, Belton used her position as Executive Director of the District of Columbia School's Office of Charter School Oversight to divert money belonging to the District of Columbia, and money coming from the federal "No Child Left Behind" program, to various bank accounts over which she had control. As part of her scheme, Belton submitted false and fraudulent invoices to steal more than $200,000 in public funds, claiming that such funds were for monitoring the quality of D.C. charter schools.

Belton furthered her scheme by violating contracting rules in awarding seven no-bid schools contracts worth over $400,000. The primary beneficiaries of those contracts were Belton's friends; and, in return, Belton received over $180,000 in kickbacks and other fraudulent payments. Finally, Belton willfully evaded nearly $100,000 in federal taxes between 2002 and 2005 and nearly $30,000 in District of Columbia taxes in 2004-05.

In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Taylor, District of Columbia Inspector General Willoughby, U.S. Department of Education Inspector General Higgins, IRS Special Agent in Charge Turner, and Chief Financial Officer Gandhi commended, in particular, the hard work, diligence, and professionalism of Special Agent Derrick L. Franklin, of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General; Special Agent Bernadette Todd-Atwater, of the District of Columbia Office of Inspector General; and Special Agent Troy A. Burrus of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division; and Edmond Wybaillie, Lead Investigator, Criminal Investigation Division, D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue. They also praised Legal Assistants Lisa Robinson and Teesha Tobias in the U.S. Attorney's Office, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Roy L. Austin, Jr., and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy G. Lynch.

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Last Modified: 12/05/2007