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Ex-school official, board member indicted in $800,000 scheme

Charges allege GloriHarper (top) board member North Chicago Community Unit School District 187 Alice Sherrod transportatidirector took kickbacks from contractors

Charges allege Gloria Harper (top), a board member of North Chicago Community Unit School District 187, and Alice Sherrod, the transportation director, took kickbacks from contractors who were awarded school bus contracts.

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Updated: July 15, 2011 2:16AM



A former North Chicago school board member and her district’s transportation director were accused Thursday of taking kickbacks totaling at least $800,000 over 10 years from contractors who had been awarded lucrative school bus contracts.

Gloria Harper, 59, of North Chicago, was a member of the board of North Chicago Community Unit School District 187, and Alice Sherrod, 59, of Gurnee, was in charge of transportation for the 4,000 students, prosecutors said in announcing a 26-count indictment against them and three contractors.

It’s not the first time Harper has been linked to an education-based scheme.

Just last month, she pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the federal E-Rate program that helps fund disadvantaged schools with computer and technology equipment.

According to the most recent indictment, in 2001, Harper and Sherrod started collecting $4,000 to $5,000 a month in exchange for sending business to suburban bus companies. By 2003, they were allegedly receiving $20,000 a month.

During that same time period, the women awarded $21 million in student bus contracts to companies that paid them off, the indictment reads.

They and contractors Derrick Eubanks, 47 of Lake Villa; Tommie Boddie, 66, of Wadsworth; and Barrett White, 52, of Matteson, were charged with wire fraud and various other counts of soliciting or paying bribes.

All but White, who allegedly served as the “bagman” funneling money between the bus companies and the school district, were also charged with filing false income tax returns.

The indictment claims that White met Sherrod at a car dealership in Evanston in 2002 and provided a $15,000 cashier’s check that Sherrod used to buy a Lexus. In 2004, White sent a $18,228 check to a car dealership in Virginia that was used to buy a Toyota Corolla for one of Harper’s relatives, the indictment alleges.

District 187 lawyer Sergio Acosta Thursday called the allegations “despicable” and a “horrible abuse of trust.”

“We’re not a particularly wealthy school. It’s disappointing,” he said.

Roycealee Wood, Regional Superintendent of Schools, described the indictments as “a big setback.”

In 2001, Harper and Sherrod met with Boddie, who partly controlled T&M Transportation and offered to increase the number of students transported by T&M — which already had a contract with the district — if he would pay them, prosecutors said.

White later took a cash payment from Boddie, kept some money for himself and gave the rest to Harper, who shared the cash with Sherrod, the indictment alleges.

The indictment seeks forfeiture of nearly $10 million, plus 48 buses and vans, and seven personal automobiles.

Harper left the board in May 2009 and Sherrod retired in July 2010, Acosta said.

Harper and White’s names also surfaced in another federal conspiracy case in New Orleans. Harper — former owner of two Illinois-based technology companies — pleaded guilty in June to providing bribes and kickbacks to school officials in Arkansas, Illinois and Louisiana, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

She is expected to be sentenced in that case in September.

Contributing: Waukegan News Sun



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