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Documents detail how Atkinson profited from tablet deal at Rio Hondo ISD

Documents detail how Atkinson profited from tablet deal at Rio Hondo ISD
3 years 7 months 3 weeks ago Tuesday, November 17 2020 Nov 17, 2020 November 17, 2020 6:48 PM November 17, 2020 in News - Local

The trial of former Brownsville school board Trustee Sylvia P. Atkinson touched on several shady deals — not just the $10,000 bribe Atkinson accepted from an undercover FBI agent.

A jury convicted Atkinson on federal bribery charges. She's scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 9.

During the trial, federal prosecutors detailed how Atkinson profited from her position at the Rio Hondo Independent School District, where she worked as assistant superintendent.

In May 2016, the Rio Hondo school district wanted to buy computer tablets for students.

Atkinson started talking with Jaime Escobedo, the owner of a company called American Surveillance, about how to win the contract.

Escobedo knew about security, but he didn't have any expertise in educational products.

Escobedo, however, had something better: Inside information provided by Atkinson, according to transcripts of recorded conversations introduced at trial.

Former Rio Hondo Superintendent Ismael Garcia, who testified during the trial, called Atkinson's conversations with Escobedo inappropriate.

Escobedo also missed the deadline to submit a bid. Atkinson, though, convinced Garcia to accept the bid anyway.

Escobedo won the contract. Rio Hondo paid $24,500 for 100 tablets.

The next week, Escobedo paid $3,000 to Rodrigo Moreno, an FBI informant affiliated with Atkinson.

Channel 5 News contacted Escobedo for comment but didn't receive a response.

Atkinson's attorneys said the payment was for a political poll.

In a recorded phone call, Atkinson told a different story: The money was a campaign contribution.

While Atkinson benefitted from the tablet deal, Rio Hondo didn't.

The tablets had problems with internet access and couldn't be used for their intended purpose.

Watch the video for the full story.

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