ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) — The federal fraud prosecution of a number of former North Alabama school officials produced multiple guilty pleas and prison terms.
Last week, former Athens City Schools Superintendent Trey Holladay was sentenced to 60 months in prison and former Limestone County Schools Superintendent Tom Sisk received an 18-month prison term. Former Athens Schools employee Gregory Corkren got a 22-month term and former Marengo County-area football coach David Tutt got a 24-month sentence. A fifth man, Rick Carter, a former Athens Schools employee, was found guilty on fraud and identity theft charges and is due to be sentenced on August 3.
The prison sentences aren’t the only penalty, the defendants are also looking at $5.7 million overall in restitution payments.
The money is to be paid by the defendants to the Alabama Department of Education. The charges come from a scheme to fake enrollment of students from Alabama’s black belt into the Athens City Schools virtual academy.
In the restitution agreement, the defendants acknowledged that Athens City Schools got $5.7 million from the Alabama Department of Education between 2016 and 2018 for payments made in the name of students who never attended the school’s virtual programs.
Huntsville Defense Attorney Mark McDaniel, who is not involved in the case, said restitution is aimed at not allowing defendants to profit from their wrongdoing. He added that the federal government goes to considerable lengths to pursue repayment, including seeking a defendant’s property.
“The United States will have a lien on that property, whatever property they may have,” McDaniel said. “That lien is good for 20 years. When they’re let out of prison, they’ll be on parole, the parole officer will make a special point to pay onto that restitution. After they get off probation and parole, you still have that 20-year lien there, which means whatever money they make the United States can come in and get part of that, garnish that. So, bottom line is, the government, the United States will be looking at what they’ve got for 20 years.”
The restitution agreement between prosecutors and the defendants includes notice that the Alabama Department of Education is seeking $5,731,897 in repayments.
According to the terms of the restitution agreement: Trey Holladay is ordered to pay $2.86 million; Greg Corkren is facing $1.3 million in restitution; Tutt owes $258,920 and Sisk has been ordered to pay $13,000.
Carter’s restitution order has not yet been issued.
According to the restitution agreement, the parties determined the following: “Holladay should be liable for paying 50% of the restitution amount owed for the 2016-2017 school year. Carter should be liable for paying 25% of that amount. Corkren should be liable for paying 25% of that amount. The parties agree that Defendants Holladay, Carter, Corkren, and Tutt contributed to losses incurred as a result of the submission of false information during the 2017-2018 school year.”
Clearly, the prison terms will make future earnings difficult for the defendants, but McDaniel said the government will pursue the defendants’ assets for 20 years, or until the restitution is paid.