Prosecutors detail theft at Gage Park and Michele Clark high schools

SHARE Prosecutors detail theft at Gage Park and Michele Clark high schools

Some of the scammers accused of ripping off thousands of dollars from Gage Park Academy and Michele Clark High School lined their pockets by billing the Chicago Public Schools for non-existent “homework packets” and phony maintenance costs for copy machines and printers, Cook County prosecutors said Thursday.

One of those men, who was referred to only as “Individual A” in court documents, was so emboldened, he allegedly billed CPS $10,000 for the maintenance of a desktop printer that had a retail value of $100.

“Individual A” never provided the services that were actually handled by another vendor. Yet, he pocketed nearly $600,000, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Michael O’Malley of the public corruption and financial crimes unit.

Details of the schemes that cost the two schools more than $870,000 emerged as the alleged ringleader and three others appeared in court Thursday to face felony theft charges before Judge Peggy Chiampas.

Jermaine Robinson, the former business manager at Gage Park and Michele Clark, was given the two principals’ login IDs and passwords to the CPS automated payment system, paving the way for him to steal the money with the help former part-time Gage Park technology coordinator Jonathan McKinney, and vendors Albert Bennett, Paul Simmons and “Individual A,” O’Malley said.

Robinson, McKinney, Bennett and Simmons appeared in court Thursday for the scams authorities said took place between 2009 and 2014.

Sidney Bradley, a fifth man who was also named in an arrest warrant earlier this week, was not in court.

A state’s attorney’s spokesman would not confirm if Bradley, 46, of Chicago, was “Individual A.”

When “Individual A” was denied a CPS vendor number, Simmons, 55, let him use his for a fee during the duration of the theft, prosecutors allege.

The lawyers of the four men in court Thursday described their clients as hard-working, family men. McKinney, 38, of Chicago is a deacon at his church, his attorney, Rick Beuke, said.

According to court documents, McKinney allowed Robinson, 36, to wire money earmarked as reimbursements for expenses from CPS accounts to his personal bank accounts. McKinney then would meet Robinson off school grounds and split the proceeds, prosecutors said.

Together they made $19,137 in embezzled funds and Robinson, who was not eligible to be reimbursed for expenses, reimbursed himself $30,000, O’Malley said.

Bennett, 49, was only supposed to be given one vendor identification number but he was given three, which he used to create fake invoices, O’Malley said.

Robinson approved payment for the invoices and when Bennett received the money, he’d give half the amount to Robinson, O’Malley said.

Of the $216,148 made in this particular setup, Robinson ended up with more than $111,000 in kickbacks, O’Malley said.

Robinson, of Chicago, was named in a $400,000 arrest warrant on Tuesday. Chiampas reduced his bail to $100,000 on Thursday.

Bennett, of Carpentersville, had his bail reduced from $200,000 to $50,000. McKinney’s bail was reduced to $20,000.

Simmons, of Calumet City, had already been released on $200,000 bond. He refused comment after the hearing.

The judge reducing the men’s bail “speaks volumes,” Beuke said after court, complaining a “cooperative” McKinney had been arrested by a swarm of officers as he tried to take his child to school Wednesday morning.

McKinney, who wore a Superman shirt in court Thursday, has two “Superman” tattoos, according to his arrest report.

Robinson resigned from CPS last year, CPS officials said. McKinney resigned from Gage Park in 2013. He was terminated from a job at King High School in December 2014, CPS officials said.

In the fall of 2013 Robinson made $109,168, CPS records show. As of August 2012, McKinney made $22,953.62 at Gage Park.

Contributing: Lauren FitzPatrick

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