August 16, 2022

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More charges filed in HISD corruption probe

3 min read

HOUSTON – The former chief operating officer of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) is facing new tax charges in relation to a bribery scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

A federal grand jury returned the 33-count superseding indictment against Brian Busby, 43, and HISD contract vendor Anthony Hutchison, 61, this morning. They are expected to make their appearances before a U.S. magistrate judge in the near future. 

Both were originally charged Dec. 14, 2021, alleging they conspired to engage in a bribery scheme. Busby allegedly helped award HISD construction and grounds maintenance contracts to Hutchison in return for cash bribes and hundreds of thousands of dollars in home remodeling. The new charges allege they filed false tax returns that underreported their income – income related to the scheme. Hutchison also overstated cost of goods sold on his returns.

Specifically, Hutchison obtained cash he used to pay bribes to HISD officials by writing company checks to vendors, who cashed the checks and provided the cash to Hutchison. Hutchison falsely stated on the memo line of the checks that they were in payment for work that had been performed on HISD properties. He then caused the checks to be improperly deducted on corporate tax returns as business expenses.  

Hutchison also caused his gambling losses to be improperly deducted on corporate tax returns as alleged business expenses his companies incurred on HISD construction or landscaping projects. 

Busby concealed his involvement in the bribery scheme by making cash deposits of bribe proceeds into multiple bank accounts and by filing false tax returns that failed to declare the cash bribes and other benefits as income. 

To date, five others have pleaded guilty in relation to the scheme – Rhonda Skillern-Jones (former HISD Board of Education president), 39, Houston; Derrick Sanders (officer of construction services), 50, Alfred Hoskins, (general manager of facilities, maintenance and operations), 58,  Gerron Hall (area manager for maintenance – south), 48, all of Missouri City; and Luis Tovar (area manager for maintenance – north), 39, Huffman.

As part of their pleas, Hoskins, Sanders, Hall, Tovar and Skillern-Jones admitted to conspiring with Busby and Hutchison to accept Hutchison’s bribes for helping to award, or not interfering in the award of, HISD contracts to Hutchison.

Once Busby and Hutchison learned of the federal criminal probe, they took steps to interfere in the investigation, according to the charges. 

Busby and Hutchison are charged with conspiracy, bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, and witness tampering. Hutchison is further charged with wire fraud. If convicted, they face up to five, 10 and 20 years, respectively, for the conspiracy, bribery and witness tampering charges. Hutchison also faces up to 20 years for each count of wire fraud. The charges added today add possible 3-year-prison terms for each of the tax charges, upon conviction.

All of the charges also carry a $250,000 maximum possible fine.

The FBI and the IRS – Criminal Investigation are conducting the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Robert S. Johnson is prosecuting the case. AUSA Kristine Rollinson is handling forfeiture matters.

Busby and Hutchison are presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law. 

The FBI requests any information the public may have about this scheme or other public corruption crimes affecting the greater Houston community and surrounding areas. Anyone with such information may report it at HoustonCorruption@FBI.gov or may submit the information anonymously by phone at 1-800-CALL-FBI or online at Tips.FBI.gov.

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