Feds: Detroit principal who got $194K in kickbacks to plead guilty today
The first of 12 Detroit principals charged in a school corruption case is due to plead guilty today to her role in a scheme that prosecutors say cheated students out of school supplies that were paid for but rarely delivered.
Clara Smith, principal at Thirkell Elementary-Middle School, is charged with accepting $194,000 in kickbacks from a school supply vendor as a thank you for helping him submit phony invoices for materials that rarely made it to her school. At a plea hearing scheduled for 11:15 a.m. today, Smith, 67, of Southfield, is expected to explain in her own words what she did wrong to U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts.
According to court documents, Smith's alleged wrongdoings include accepting secret payments from a crooked vendor who rewarded her with Sam's Club gift cards, Walmart gift cards, cash, checks payable to Smith's family and friends, payments to Smith's personal credit cards and payments to cover her personal bills.
And both parties kept track of all this, prosecutors allege. They say the vendor maintained a ledger that listed of how much money he owed Smith for her help, and Smith maintained a ledger, too, to keep track of what he owed her.