Revised: 2 Former Orleans Parish School Board Employees Sentenced to Federal Prison

Published: February 23, 2008

NEW ORLEANS – Drena Clay, 42, and Debra Harrison, 46, both residents of New Orleans, were sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and 41 months imprisonment respectively, by U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval, Jr., Feb. 20. Clay and Harrison had been convicted after a seven-day jury trial of conspiracy to commit extortion, extortion, conspiracy to commit program fraud and program fraud. Harrison was also convicted of lying to the FBI on two occasions. Another defendant convicted of lying to the FBI in the trial, Walter Tardy, 41, is scheduled for sentencing on Apr. 16, 2008.

These convictions are a part of the wide ranging Orleans Parish School Board corruption probe which has netted 27 convictions, including former School Board President, Ellenese Brooks-Simms and insurance broker Lillian Smith-Haydel.

This matter arose from an investigation into fraudulently inflated class coverage hours at Fannie C. Williams Middle School in Eastern New Orleans. Harrison, the school secretary was in charge of the system by which classes of absent teachers were covered by other teachers present that day, during their free period. However, the jury found that the system was corrupted by Harrison and Clay by demanding kickbacks from teachers to falsely inflate the class coverage hours.

Two other defendants, John Baker, 47, and Trynitha Fulton, 30, pled guilty as charged and testified in the October jury trial. Baker and Fulton are set for sentencing on June 11, 2008.

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Harrison, who faced a statutory maximum of 55 years, and whose U.S. sentencing guideline range was 41 – 51 months, not only was sentenced to 41 months but also was ordered to pay a proportional share of $32,750 in restitution to the Orleans Parish School Board, and three years supervised release after her release from jail.

Clay, who faced a statutory maximum of 55 years, and whose United States sentencing guideline range was 30-37 months, not only was sentenced to 30 months but also was ordered to pay a proportional share of $32,750 in restitution to the Orleans Parish School Board, as well as three years supervised release.

The Orleans Parish School Systems investigation was a joint investigative effort of the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigations Division, and the Department of Education Office of the Inspector General. This case prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carter K. D. Guice, Jr., Daniel Friel and Richard Rose, of the District of Rhode Island.______________________________________________________________________

USDOJ Feb. 20, 2008 press release

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