Jerome Oberlton, former Chief Information Officer of Atlanta Public Schools (APS) has appeared before a U.S. magistrate along with cohort Mahendra Patel to face charges of illegally receiving payments and using influence to defraud APS. Both men pleaded not guilty and were released on $25,000 bond.
The FBI, in a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, alleges that Oberlton and Patel were in cahoots to defraud the district over a period of time with Oberlton using his influence to award a $780,000 to a nonexistent company in exchange for kickbacks.
Obrelton and Patel have been indicted with charges of conspiracy to defraud APS, which could carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison with a $250,000 fine.
“What started as a friendship between Mr. Patel and Mr. Oberlton resulted in them lining their pockets with funds obtained illegally through kickbacks,” stated Veronica Hyman-Pillot, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation. “We are committed to ‘following the money trail’ to ensure that those who engage in these illegal activities are vigorously investigated and brought to justice.”
Oberlton’s term with the APS lasted from June 2004 through August 2007 and he was in charge of APS’s information technology program. Oberlton is facing charges of influencing the request proposal process and causing the winning bidder to be selected in exchange for a kickback for himself and Patel.
Patel was an acquaintance of Oberlton at the time.
“Abusing one’s position of public trust for personal gain should not and will not be tolerated,” said Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office. “The FBI, in designating public corruption matters as its number one criminal programs priority, asks that anyone with information regarding such activity to contact their nearest FBI field office.”
In order to cover up the kickbacks, Oberlton allegedly created two shell companies, Global Technology Partners and later Global Technology Services.
The complaint alleges that Patel used sales commissions for non-existent consulting work from the shell companies to cover up his kickbacks and that the IT company involved paid Oberlton and Patel $60,000 each for almost six months while the company received almost $800,000 in APS project work.
Additionally, the pair have been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy under color of official right. Each could see a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine. Oberlton also faces charges of bribery and money laundering, which each carry a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“As the chief information officer for APS, Oberlton was entrusted with overseeing a program designed to centralize student data,” said United States Attorney Sally Yates who told the United States Attorney’s office. “Rather than ensuring that vendors were selected based upon what was best for the school system, the defendants are charged with using Oberlton’s public position to line their private pockets.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kurt R.Erskine and Jill E.Steinberg are presiding over the case.
Obrelton last served in Dallas as a school head as the city’s school district chief of staff. He resigned from the position last week, after informing Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles that he was under investigation and expected to be indicted. He joined Dallas ISD in January.
To stay updated on the case visit the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia at www.justice.gov/usao/gan.