Former Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Chief Information Officer (CIO) Jerome Oberlton was sentenced to three years and five months in federal prison for conspiring to receive kickbacks in exchange for awarding a $780,000 contract to a computer vendor.
According to United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Oberlton, as APS’ CIO, had overall management responsibility for the APS information technology program. In January 2007, the school system issued a request for proposal (RFP) for a Data Warehousing (DW) project. The DW project was intended to centralize information relating to APS operations, including student information, so that it was maintained digitally in a secure, easily-accessible manner.
From the start of the project in January 2007, co-defendant Mahendra Patel and Oberlton conspired to influence the RFP process and, ultimately, caused the winning bidder to be selected in exchange for kickbacks paid to both. In order to hide the bribes, Oberlton created Global Technology Partners (GTP) and, later, Global Technology Services (GTS), funneling the bribe payments through these shell companies. Oberlton concealed his ownership of GTP and GTS from the school system, even when questions arose in 2007.
In contrast, the kickbacks to Patel were disguised as sales commissions for non-existent consulting work he supposedly performed for the shell companies. In reality, Patel acted as an intermediary, helping to negotiate the kickbacks to Oberlton from the vendor. The computer vendor ultimately paid approximately $60,000 in bribes to Oberlton over almost six months and, in return, the company received $780,000 in APS project work.
Oberlton was APS’ CIO between June 2004 and August 2007 and, most recently, was the Chief of Staff for the Dallas Independent School District before he resigned in May 2013, shortly after he was indicted.Oberlton was sentenced to three years and five months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $735,130. Oberlton was convicted on these charges on January 8, 2014, after he pleaded guilty.
“Oberlton lined his own pockets at the expense of the APS students and teachers who depended on him,” said Yates. “In a time when schools struggle to make the most of every dollar, Oberlton put his own greed before his obligation to protect scarce resources.”