A former Atlanta Public Schools chief information officer entered a guilty plea Wednesday over $60,000 in kickbacks he received for influencing the school system to award a $780,000 project to a computer vendor.
Court documents and U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said Obertlton had overall management responsibility for APS’ information technology program. In January 2007, APS issued a request for proposal for a data warehousing project at the school system.
Oberlton and co-defendant Mahendra Patel conspired to influence the process, ultimately causing the winning bidder to be selected in exchange for kickbacks paid to them. While Patel did not work for APS, he had connections with a Detroit-based technology company that received the contract through the corrupted RFP process.
Oberlton created two shell companies and funneled the bribe payments through these shell companies.
The kickbacks to Patel were disguised as sales commissions for non-existent consulting work that he supposedly performed for the shell companies. In reality, Patel helped negotiate the kickbacks between Oberlton and the Detroit-based technology company. He then signed fake sales consultant agreements to hide his role.
The Detroit-based technology company paid approximately $60,000 in bribes to Oberlton and, in return, it received $780,000 from the Atlanta Public Schools.
Oberlton was the CIO for APS between June 2004 and August 2007. He was the chief of staff for the Dallas Independent School District before he resigned in May 2013, shortly after he was indicted.
Oberlton, 48, of Atlanta, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Patel and others to accept bribes, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of $250,000. A recommendation was given to the U.S. District Judge that Oberlton receive a sentence of 41 months’ imprisonment, pay $735,130 in restitution and perform 1,000 hours of community service. Sentencing is scheduled for March 24, 2014.
Mahendra Patel, 45, of Kennesaw, pleaded guilty on Aug. 16, 2013, to conspiring with Oberlton to accept bribes.