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Corruption

Montgomery educator pleads guilty, implicates two others in $300K fraud scheme

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A federal plea agreement entered by a former Montgomery County assistant principal on Tuesday provided details of a fraud scheme that allegedly bilked the school system out of more than $300,000.

Walter James, who served as assistant principal at Jeff Davis High in Montgomery, pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges for his part in a scheme that, according to the plea agreement, involved former JD principal Bobby Abrams and chief school financial officer Brenda Palmer.

James admits in the document to creating a fictitious consultant business called ED-ONE Professional Development Services. Using that phony company, James then entered into a contract with JD, allegedly signed by Abrams and Palmer, to provide consulting and professional development services — none of which ever occurred.

The school and the MPS central office would pay James for the services. He would deposit those checks and then allegedly provide cash to Abrams and Palmer.

An audit conducted in February, following concerns raised by MPS’ chief financial officer Arthur Watts, uncovered the fraud and found more than $700,000 in misspent money — including on charges at a strip club and liquor stores, and thousands paid out to fictitious businesses.

James was accused of receiving $40,000 from JD and $300,000 from MPS. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. Abrams, a former NFL player, and Palmer have not been charged.

 

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Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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