Houston ISD’s former chief operating officer and an HISD vendor have been indicted in connection with an alleged bribery scheme that federal authorities say cost the district millions of dollars.
The 26-count indictment accuses former COO Brian Busby, 43, of awarding HISD construction and grounds maintenance contracts to HISD contract vendor Anthony Hutchison, 60, in return for cash bribes and hundreds of thousands of dollars in home remodeling.
Operating as Southwest Wholesale, Hutchison allegedly entered long-term contracts with HISD from 2011 to 2020 and frequently overcharged the district, causing millions of dollars in loss for HISD. The indictment accuses Hutchison of paying a portion of his fraudulently boosted profits to Busby in the form of cash payments and free home remodeling.
The indictment also charges several other former HISD officials with conspiracy for helping to award, or refraining from interfering in the award of, HISD jobs to Hutchison.
Those individuals have all pleaded guilty, and have been identified as former HISD Board of Education president Rhonda Skillern-Jones, 39, Derrick Sanders, 50, Alfred Hoskins, 58, Gerron Hall, 47, and Luis Tovar, 39.
According to the indictment, Busby and Hutchison allegedly encouraged Hoskins to lie to the FBI about Busby’s role in awarding jobs to Hutchison, and to claim that the payments reflected in Hutchison’s ledger were for gambling rather than for bribery.
The FBI executed search warrants in February 2020 at HISD’s Hattie Mae White Administration Building and at the homes of Busby and Hutchison — where authorities allegedly discovered over $186,000 in cash.
Busby and Hutchison were both arrested on Thursday and are being charged with conspiracy, bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, and witness tampering — Hutchison is also being charged with wire fraud. The two men were expected to make their initial appearances before a judge by Thursday afternoon, according to the United States Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas.
In a statement, HISD said the district was fully cooperating with the investigation, and that no one charged in connection with the indictments was currently employed by HISD.
“From the time that HISD became aware of the federal investigation in February 2020, HISD provided information as requested by law enforcement with respect to the investigation,” the statement read. “As that criminal investigation progressed, HISD also implemented additional internal procedures to safeguard against the type of conduct alleged in the charges announced (Thursday).”