It’s been almost two years since the FBI raided the Houston ISD administration building as part of a multi-year investigation.
On Feb. 27, 2020, FBI agents served search warrants on the district’s Hattie Mae White Building, the northwest Harris County home of former chief operating officer Brian Busby, and the home of Anthony Hutchison, the owner of Southwest Wholesale who was contacted to do landscaping for the district.
Court documents said agents seized $90,000 from Busby that day and about $100,000 from Hutchison.
Since then, the men have been arrested and charged in federal court for orchestrating a kickback scheme that defrauded the district of $7 million over seven years. Court documents claim Busby deposited $2.6 million into the bank from 2016 to 2020 that did not include his salary.
ABC13 asked the district when they found out who was being investigated and why. District officials told us this week that they would not comment further on the topic.
Busby was immediately put on paid home duty. In May of 2020, he was sent a memo directing him not to speak to any other HISD employees. His contract with the district was not renewed for the 2020-2021 school year. The longtime district employee’s last day was Aug. 31, 2020, which was six months after the raid.
SEE RELATED STORY: HISD’s former COO indicted: Prosecutors allege contractor overcharged district $6M in scheme
The former COO’s wife also worked for HISD as a school support officer making $140,000 annually, according to court documents.
She resigned from the district a year and a half after her home was raided on Aug. 31, 2021, according to a letter obtained by ABC13, citing personal reasons.
The FBI announced in a press release on Dec. 16, the day Busby and Hutchison were arrested, that five others were arrested and charged in this alleged kickback scheme. They accepted plea agreements in October.
Former HISD Board of Education president Rhonda Skillern-Jones admitted to taking more than $10,000 in bribe payments from Hutchison, according to the plea filed in her case.
At the time the news broke, she was serving on the Houston Community College Board and worked for Precinct 1 County Commissioner Rodney Ellis. Both said they were surprised by the news. She resigned from the board and was terminated by the county.
SEE RELATED STORY: HCC board member resigns amid HISD allegations
The other four worked in various maintenance and facility roles at HISD.
Derrick Sanders was with the district for seven years. He left in September of 2020. Alfred Hoskins was with HISD for 34 years and left in October of 2021. Gerron Hall worked for the district for 25 years and also left in October of 2021. Luis Tovar was with HISD for 16 years. He was still working there on the day the FBI announced the plea agreements. He was terminated on Dec. 17.
ABC13 got a copy of the letter sent from the district to Southwest Wholesale on June 25, 2020, terminating their contract with the landscaper. They exercised the portion of the agreement that allowed them to end it without cause with 30 days notice.
Still, invoices show that HISD paid Hutchison’s company nearly $500,000 in the four months between the FBI raid and the termination of the contract.
When asked what HISD is doing to safeguard taxpayer money in the future, they sent the following statement:
A review of the internal team and systems for contracting and vendors, as well as an external review of the district’s procurement procedures have been ordered. While we will not comment as to specific additional internal procedures implemented to safeguard against this type of conduct as a matter of security, Mr. House remains steadfast in his commitment as a parent, teacher, and taxpayer, to ensure HISD does everything in its power to never be vulnerable to this kind of alleged misconduct again.
Source: New documents revealed in alleged $7 million kickback scheme at HISD