Fake Movie Project Used in Brownsville ISD Bribery
BROWNSVILLE – A movie proposed to Brownsville Independent School District was central in the indictment against the Board Vice President Sylvia P. Atkinson. She is facing federal bribery and conspiracy charges.
Film projects were not a far-fetched idea. In 2015, “Endgame” was filmed on school grounds. The film proposed by the FBI and others was similar.
The indictment against Atkinson details a movie project proposed to the school district. The FBI worked with a person they described in the indictment as a "cooperating individual."
Documents found posted along the agenda meeting packet identify Pink Ape Media Consulting as that partner. They are a Brownsville-based media company in existence since 2013.
Together, the cooperating individual and the FBI undercover agent met with Atkinson in December 2018. That's when she proposed getting paid a total sum of $10,000 for helping move the project along.
The indictment states she was paid $4,000 up front to help in putting the item on the agenda. The next month, January, Atkinson allegedly helped the media company draft the letter. It described a pilot they wanted to shoot related to a "short story about growing up along the border." It also stated a portion of their proceeds would go back to the school district.
The letter was sent electronically to the interim superintendent requesting she place their item on the agenda.
When the day came to discuss the proposed project, the board seemed optimistic about the project. There was hesitation regarding safety concerns and following proper procedures like the district did with “Endgame”. That's when Atkinson inserted herself into the discussion saying, "I think, I speak for myself, but I think it’s pretty much the sentiment of the Board, we want to be able to promote the district as much as possible and if there is an opportunity to do so and it’s a feel good story and you know, it’s about promoting the district and our community, I’m all for it, sign them up, give me 10 film makers."
Discussion also focused on using the movie as a way to promote the image of the border.
By the end of the nearly 10-minute discussion of the item, the measure passed unanimously.
After the meeting, the federal indictment states Atkinson was paid the remaining $6,000. It states she had a meeting with those helping the FBI and expressing her willingness to continue working with them saying, "I can assure you that what you need to get done, in this area, will get done."
Atkinson is out on a $50,000 bond that required a $5,000 deposit. She's scheduled to go back to court February 10, 2020.