School Tech Director Gets Jail Time for E-Rate Fraud

A former technology director in a South Carolina school district has been sentenced to two years in jail and required to pay more than US$468,000 in restitution for using the mail to submit fraudulent applications for funding under the U.S. government's E-Rate program.

Cynthia Ayer, former technology director at Bamberg County School District One, pleaded guilty in April to committing mail fraud by submitting applications containing false information to the E-Rate program, a program designed to help schools and libraries in poor areas connect to the Internet. Ayer was indicted on mail and wire fraud charges in April 2006.

Ayer requested funds she was not entitled to, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The Universal Service Administrative Co., which administers the E-Rate program for the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, mailed Go Between, a company owned by Ayer, a $25,243 check based on her fraudulent claims, the DOJ said.

The sentencing shows the DOJ's "resolve to hold accountable individuals who subvert the competitive process and frustrate efforts to help children in our nation's economically disadvantaged schools," Deborah Garza, acting assistant attorney general in charge of the DOJ's Antitrust Division, said in a statement.

The E-Rate program subsidizes Internet access, telecommunications services and internal communications networks to schools and libraries in poor areas. The program was created by Congress in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and its $2.3 billion annual budget is funded by telecommunications carriers through the federal Universal Service Fund.

The DOJ's continuing investigations into fraud and anticompetitive conduct in the E-Rate program has resulted in seven companies and 17 individuals pleading guilty or being found guilty, or entering into civil settlements. Those companies and people have agreed or have been sentenced to pay criminal fines and restitution of more than $40 million.

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