Consultant who bribed Chicago schools CEO pleads guilty

Consultant who bribed Chicago schools CEO pleads guilty

Thomas Vranas was a co-owner of companies that paid bribes to Barbara Byrd-Bennett in return for school business contracts.

A businessman who plotted with Chicago's top school administrator to steer contracts to his consulting companies has pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Thomas Vranas, 35, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery. He and another consultant, Gary Solomon, were charged with conspiring with Chicago Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to steer about $23 million in Chicago Public Schools contracts to companies he and Solomon owned.

Former Chicago Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett

In return for the plea, prosecutors will recommend a lighter sentence for Vranas. He also must pay $254,000 in restitution.

Bennett pleaded guilty last year; her sentencing has been delayed while prosecutors follow up and complete related cases. Solomon has pleaded not guilty and has a trial date set in October.

Vranas and Solomon owned The SUPES Academy, which provided professional development training for education administrators, and Synesi Associates, which offered education consulting services. Byrd-Bennett worked at both companies before joining the Chicago school system.

Vranas's plea agreement states that from 2012 to 2014, he set aside between 4 percent and 9 percent of what SUPES and Synesi collected and put it in a "development fund," a portion of which would be paid to Byrd-Bennett upon her return to SUPES as a reward for her efforts to obtain contracts with the Chicago school system.

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