Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Three plead guilty in virtual schools scheme

The guilty pleas include a former district superintendent, who admitted to receiving thousands of dollars for his part in the scam.


Three defendants, including the former Limestone County superintendent, in a virtual school fraud scheme entered guilty pleas in federal court last Friday, admitting to their roles in a scam involving phony student data and millions of taxpayer dollars misdirected. 

Former Limestone superintendent Tom Sisk, along with former educators Greg Corkren and David Tutt, pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme, and all three acknowledged personally receiving money from the scheme. APR first reported the joint FBI-U.S. Department of Education investigation into virtual schools around the state last August.

In February, federal prosecutors announced the indictments of six individuals, including former Athens superintendent Trey Holladay, his wife Deborah Holladay, and another Athens City Schools educator, Rick Carter. Along with Sisk, Corkren and Tutt, they carried out a fraud in which they created phony student information and class records in order to beef up enrollment numbers and increase per-pupil funding allocations from the Alabama Department of Education. 

Corkren and Tutt each had consulting companies that were supposedly locating private school and homeschool students who would be willing to instead enroll in virtual school at either Limestone Schools or Athens City. In exchange, according to a contract that the Athens Board of Trustees signed, the districts would pay Tutt and Corkren a portion of money per pupil. 

According to their guilty pleas, however, instead of finding real students, Tutt and Corkren were simply making them up — at the direction of Holladay. Their companies would receive the per-pupil payments promised, and then Tutt and Corkren would give kickbacks to Holladay. Corkren said he gave Holladay at least $90,000 over the course of the scheme, and he gave Carter at least $21,000, according to Corkren’s plea agreement. 

Sisk said in his plea deal that Holladay told him of the scheme and set Sisk up with Corkren to run a similar scheme in Limestone County. Corkren and Sisk say it netted Sisk roughly $13,000. 

Tutt, in the meantime, said he was doing roughly the same job as Corkren, but instead of kicking back directly to Holladay, he was instead sending his kickbacks to Deborah Holladay through her consulting company. 

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Over the course of the scheme, Corkren said he made in excess of $500,000 — all of it coming from public school money. That figure doesn’t include the tens of millions of dollars that erroneously was diverted from needier school systems to the Athens and Limestone systems to pay for fictional students that were never served by those districts. 

Sisk, Corkren and Tutt each face a five-year sentence. The Holladays and Carter are scheduled for trial on Sept. 13.

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.

More from the Alabama Political Reporter


Ivey pledged to have Alabama in the top 30 states in education rankings by the end of her term, and said these four orders...


King understood that the real purpose of education was not just the acquisition of knowledge, but the positive application of knowledge.

Local news

The investment will support Birmingham Talks, a program aimed at improving kindergarten readiness.

Featured Opinion

Alabama has the fifth-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. More fact-based sex ed is exactly what we need.


These members are tasked with a very important mission but receive very little compensation for their time and efforts.


Closing the gap between the college and career readiness rate and the graduation rate is important to families across Alabama. 


Students listen, think and respond. The world we live in today sure could benefit from that.


The Borden Dairy closure will impact more than 100 public school districts, charter schools, and government agencies.