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Updated: 1:49 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 | Posted: 12:06 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014

Former APS tech chief pleads guilty in bribery case

By Mark Niesse

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A former Atlanta Public Schools technology director pleaded guilty Wednesday to allegations that he took bribes in exchange for steering work to a contractor.

Jerome Oberlton, 48, reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors that includes a potential sentence of 3 1/2 years imprisonment and repayment of $735,000 — the amount Atlanta’s school system paid between March and December in 2007 to the contractor, Computech. U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash scheduled Oberlton’s sentencing for March 24.

Oberlton, who left APS in 2007 and resigned as chief of staff for the Dallas Independent School District last summer, acknowledged in court that he received about $60,000 in kickback payments to two corporations he controlled without the knowledge or consent of APS.

“I am being charged with kickbacks and entering into an unauthorized agreement with another individual,” Oberlton said in court. He and his attorneys declined to comment after the hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine said Oberlton worked with his former neighbor, Mahendra Patel, to profit from the data warehousing contract, which was intended to centralize the school system’s computer information so it could be easily accessed by education employees.

“The defendant understood these payments to be kickbacks paid in exchange for the award of the DW project,” Erskine said in court.

Patel pleaded guilty in August, and he has not yet been sentenced.

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