MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Two former north Alabama school superintendents are among six people facing charges including conspiracy, fraud and identity theft in an alleged scheme to illegally boost and pocket school funding, court documents unsealed Tuesday show.
Former Athens school Superintendent Trey Holladay and former Limestone County Superintendent Tom Sisk were indicted by a federal grand jury in Montgomery, court records showed. So was Holladay’s wife, retired Athens teacher Deborah Irby Holladay.
The other three who were charged include former Athens High principal William Richard Carter Jr., who also oversaw virtual learning programs for the system; former Marengo Academy football coach David Webb Tutt; and Gregory Earl “Greg” Corkren, a retired teacher. Both Tutt and Corkren were identified as longtime friends of Holladay.
Prosecutors said the indictment alleges that the defendants were involved in a complicated scheme to fraudulently enroll students in public virtual schools. Private school students were wrongly counted as being enrolled in online classes through public schools to boost attendance by hundreds and obtain additional state funding, the indictment said.
“These defendants organized and participated in a scheme to defraud the Alabama State Department of Education and Alabama taxpayers by diverting funds from public school districts across the Black Belt, funneling those funds into school districts in north Alabama and then skimming a portion of that money into their own pockets,” U.S. attorney Louis Franklin said.
Franklin said the defendants “personally enriched themselves either through questionable contracts or cash payments under the table.
In a statement released by defense attorneys, Trey and Deborah Holladay called the charges “unfounded” and promised a vigorous defense.
“We are a family of teachers and coaches. There is absolutely no way that we would do anything detrimental to the school system,” they said.
None of the other defendants answered the charges in court, and documents available online did not include the names of defense lawyers.
Holladay left his job last fall amid an investigation after the Athens school board agreed to pay him $250,000 to buy out his contract. Sisk was forced out of a superintendent’s job in Tennessee a year ago amid questions about his qualifications after departing the Limestone County system in 2019.
The indictment includes 90 counts of wire fraud and 34 counts of identity theft involving students who were allegedly falsely enrolled on the rolls of public schools.