Michigan School Official Indicted on Bribery Charge

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A former superintendent of a school district in Michigan has been indicted on a conspiracy charge for allegedly accepting a bribe to award an Internet services contract through the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's E-Rate program.

On Tuesday, a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan filed a conspiracy and an obstruction of justice charge against Bradley Hansen, superintendent of the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District from October 1993 to January 2003, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Hansen was charged with conspiring with the owner of an ISP to sign a three-year Internet service contract with the unnamed ISP in exchange for receipt of US$60,000 in free goods and services, including a "smart" home electrical system and appliances.

The three-year contract, funded through the federal E-Rate program, was worth about $1.6 million, the DOJ said. The E-Rate program provides money for Internet service to schools and libraries in poor areas.

"Today's indictment demonstrates the Department's resolve to hold accountable individuals who frustrate efforts to help our nation's school children," Christine Varney, assistant attorney general in charge of the DOJ's Antitrust Division, said in a statement. "The department has charged the former school superintendent with selling his office for personal gain."

Due to a continuing Antitrust Division investigation into fraud and anticompetitive conduct in the E-Rate program, seven companies and 18 people have pleaded guilty, been found guilty or entered civil settlements. Those companies and individuals have agreed to pay, or have been sentenced to pay, fines and restitution of more than $40 million. Thirteen people have been sentenced to serve jail time.

The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The obstruction of justice charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

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