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Former Athens principal convicted for role in $10 million fraud scheme

Rick Carter, who was principal of the year in Alabama in 2013, was accused of falsifying student records to skim state dollars.

(STOCK)

A former Athens City Schools administrator was convicted on Friday by a federal jury in Montgomery for his role in a $10 million virtual school scheme. 

Rick Carter, who was a principal and served as the director of planning for the Athens district, was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft for his role in a scheme to fraudulently enroll private school students in the Athens virtual school. Those students were never enrolled, however, and Carter and five other defendants convicted in the scheme instead fabricated report cards, student information and other materials in an effort to steal per-pupil funding from the Alabama State Department of Education. 

Carter faces up to 20 years in prison and could receive consecutive two-year sentences for each identity theft charge. 

In all, federal investigators believe Carter and the others involved the scheme – former Athen superintendent Trey Holladay, his wife Susan, former Limestone County superintendent Tom Sisk, Greg Corkren and David Tutt – swindled around $10 million from Alabama’s public schools. 

“We trust every educator to make teaching our children the top priority,” said Alice S. LaCour, acting United States Attorney for this case. “In this case, Mr. Carter violated that trust and put profit ahead of the well-being of students. I am proud of the work of the law enforcement agents who spent countless hours uncovering the disheartening fraud perpetuated by Mr. Carter and his co-conspirators.”

APR first reported the federal investigation into the virtual schools scheme several months before the first arrests were made in February 2021, and detailed many of the allegations facing Holladay, Sisk and others. 

Carter was the only person indicted who failed to enter a guilty plea and accept a deal. Sisk, Corkren and Tutt rolled quickly, entering guilty pleas in early April, and began working with investigators against the Holladays and Carter. Then, in December, Trey Holladay agreed to a plea deal. In exchange for Holladay’s guilty plea, federal prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against his wife. 

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Sisk, Tutt and Corkren will be sentenced in May. Holladay will be sentenced in June. A date for Carter’s sentencing has not yet been set. 

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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