Detroit's battered public school system got another black eye on Tuesday when federal prosecutors filed bribery charges against 12 current and former principals over an alleged school supply scam. US Attorney Barbara McQuade says the sordid scheme involved businessman Norman Shy, who allegedly scammed Detroit Public Schools for millions, paying more than $900,000 in kickbacks along the way, CBS News reports. The 74-year-old "would submit fraudulent invoices for school supplies. The principals would approve those invoices and then he would provide some, but not all, of the goods that he promised to sell," McQuade says. "In exchange for approving these fraudulent invoices, Norman Shy paid bribes to these principals."
The alleged payoffs ranged from $4,000 to $194,000. Prosecutors say Shy tried to disguise the kickbacks, which were delivered through cash, gift cards, and, in at least one case, renovation work on a principal's home, the Detroit Free Press reports. Shy and a school administrator have also been charged over the scheme, which McQuade says is a "punch in the gut" but not connected to the huge financial problems of the school district, which has been overseen by a state-appointed emergency manager since 2009. "Public corruption never comes at a good time," she says. (This whistleblower was awarded $51 million for exposing a medical device company's bribery scheme.)