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.