Player in CPS contract scandal pleads guilty

- Another defendant in the SUPES scandal that ousted Chicago Public Schools’ former CEO has admitted his guilt Tuesday in the multimillion dollar kickback scheme that was captured in a long exchange of detailed emails, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Thomas Vranas, 35, entered his plea Tuesday morning before U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang. The government is seeking $254,ooo in restitution from him but has agreed to recommend a reduced sentence in exchange for his cooperation. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

His co-defendant, Gary Solomon, 47, has pleaded not guilty to more than a dozen criminal charges stemming from the alleged steering of contracts to The SUPES Academy and Synesi Associates by disgraced former schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett in exchange for kickbacks.

Forced out of CPS last spring, Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud in October. In exchange for her continued cooperation, prosecutors offered a recommended reduced prison sentence of 7 ½ years for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked CEO. Her sentence will be determined once the other cases are resolved.

She admitted handing SUPES and Synesi nearly $23 million in no-bid deals. Her plotting was captured in damning emails that began even before Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed her in 2012 to head the country’s third-largest school district. She resigned from CPS in June and still collects at least $140,000 a year in pensions from other states where she has worked.

Solomon’s attorney has said that plea-related discussions with prosecutors are ongoing.

Meanwhile, CPS has sued all three to try to recoup $65 million in restitution and damages the district claims it’s entitled to as a result of fraud.

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