Georgia Man Sentenced for E-Rate Bribery

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A Georgia man was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of bribery and conspiring to bride a former Atlanta Public Schools official for work related to a U.S. government program designed to help schools and libraries in poor areas connect to the Internet.

R. Clay Harris was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. In addition to the five-year prison sentence, Harris and two co-defendants were ordered to pay restitution of more than US$234,000, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Harris, who served as CEO and majority owner of Multimedia Communications Services, was convicted of paying more than $200,000 in brides to the technology director of Atlanta Public Schools in exchange for E-Rate contracts, the DOJ said.

Co-conspirator Arthur Scott was the director of the school district's Operational Technology/Telecommunications Division, which had responsibility for overseeing the district's E-Rate program. Scott pleaded guilty to conspiracy and bribery charges in May 2007 and is serving a three-year prison sentence. Scott testified against Harris.

In 1998, Scott and other school district employees recommended that Multimedia and related companies be awarded E-Rate contracts. Then, beginning in late 2000 and continuing for about two years, Harris paid M&S Consulting, a business partnership between Scott and his wife, Evelyn Myers Scott , more than $230,000 for favorable treatment in receiving E-Rate and other school district business, the DOJ said.

In January 2001, shortly after the payments began, Arthur Scott submitted E-Rate funding applications requesting over $22 million for Harris' company to provide equipment and services to the school district, without competitive bidding, the DOJ said.

In September 2001, the E-Rate program approved $11 million for Multimedia projects at Atlanta Public Schools. Arthur Scott testified at trial that he did virtually no work for Harris from that point forward, yet he continued to invoice Harris and received more than $200,000 in payments from Harris. During that same time period, Harris received over $11 million in E-Rate funds for work at the school district, the DOJ said.

Arthur Scott submitted E-Rate funding applications for an additional $16 million for Multimedia to provide equipment and services to the school district, again without competitive bidding, in January 2002. Harris' payments to Scott stopped when Harris' company was forced to competitively bid for additional E-Rate work in December 2002 and was not selected by the school district to conduct further work under the E-Rate program.

Evelyn Myers Scott, the partner in M&S Consulting, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to deprive the school district of her honest services in May 2007 and is currently serving a sentence of two years in federal prison. She also testified at trial against Harris.

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