Former HISD COO, district vendor indicted in multimillion-dollar kickback scheme

Houston Independent School District's former chief operating officer and an HISD contract vendor have been indicted in a multimillion-dollar public corruption scheme.

Several other former HISD officials have also admitted their guilt in the same case.

Brian Busby, 43, and Anthony Hutchison, 60, were both taken into custody Thursday. A federal grand jury returned the indictment on Tuesday, Dec. 14, which was unsealed today.


They are expected to make their initial appearances before a U.S. magistrate judge Thursday afternoon.

The 26-count indictment charges Busby and Hutchison with conspiring to engage in a bribery scheme that lasted nearly a decade.

What was their scheme?

Busby allegedly helped award long-term HISD construction and grounds maintenance contracts to Hutchison, who operated as "Southwest Wholesale." In return, Hutchison paid a portion of his fraudulently boosted profits to Busby in the form of cash payments and free home remodeling, according to the charges.  

The indictment alleges that from 2011 to 2020, Hutchison systematically overbilled HISD and inflated bills for services, causing millions of dollars in loss to the school district.

Hutchison also received purchase orders for construction, repair, landscaping and maintenance jobs at particular HISD schools, the indictment reads. Hutchison obtained these jobs by paying cash bribes, mostly in the form of kickbacks, to HISD personnel who assisted him in obtaining business with HISD, according to the charges.

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Along with Busby there are five other named HISD officials in the case, including former HISD Board of Education president Rhonda Skillern-Jones, 39, officer of construction services Derrick Sanders, 50; general manager of facilities, maintenance and operations Alfred Hoskins, 58; area manager for maintenance Gerron Hall, 47; and area manager for maintenance Luis Tovar, 39.

Hall, Hoskins, Sanders, Skillern-Jones, and Tovar have all filed a plea agreement.

According to the indictment, these five HISD officials conspired with Busby and Hutchison to accept bribes from Hutchison for helping to award, or not interfering in the award of, HISD contracts to Hutchison.

Sanders, Hoskins, Hall and Tovar have admitted they helped award, or refrained from interfering in the award of, HISD jobs to Hutchison, typically at Busby’s insistence.

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As part of her plea, Skillern-Jones admitted that, in return for bribe payments from Hutchison, she caused an expenditure of funds for school landscaping and construction projects to be placed on a 2017 HISD Board agenda and voted to approve it. They were eventually awarded to Hutchison. In her plea agreement, she admitted Busby personally delivered thousands of dollars in bribe payments to her from Hutchison.

According to indictment, once Busby and Hutchison learned of the federal criminal probe, they took steps to interfere in the investigation.

During execution of search warrants in 2020 at the homes of Busby and Hutchison, authorities allegedly discovered over $186,000 in cash. The indictment gives notice of the government’s intent to forfeit these sums as proceeds of the charged crimes.

"Today's arrests and related charges are the result of a lengthy, multifaceted FBI Houston investigation," said Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard A. Collodi. "Houston taxpayers and the thousands of HISD students, along with their teachers and staff, are the potential victims of this alleged multimillion-dollar public corruption scheme."

What are the charges?

Both Busby and Hutchison are charged with conspiracy, bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, and witness tampering.

Hutchison is also charged with wire fraud.

Hoskins, Sanders, Hall, Tovar and Skillern-Jones have pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charges.


What punishment do they face?

If convicted, Busby and Hutchison each face up to five, 10 and 20 years, respectively, for the conspiracy, bribery and witness tampering charges.

Hutchison also faces up to 20 years for each count of wire fraud. 

Hoskins, Sanders, Hall, Tovar and Skillern-Jones each face up to five years in prison.

All of the charges also carry a $250,000 maximum possible fine.

Houston ISD's response to charges

Houston ISD issued this statement in response to the investigation and subsequent charges:

HISD fully cooperated with the federal investigation into actions that allegedly took place from 2011 to 2020 which led to the charges that were made public today. As indicated in previous statements 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. As that criminal investigation progressed, HISD also implemented additional internal procedures to safeguard against the type of conduct alleged in the charges announced today.

No person charged in connection with the indictments announced today is currently employed by HISD.

HISD fully respects the criminal justice process, and HISD cannot comment further with respect to the underlying facts of the investigation or the charges announced today pending resolution of those charges.

Houston Community College's response

Yesterday, December 16, 2021, the HCC Board of Trustees, together with the people of our community, learned of actions concerning a College trustee in a statement from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. It is clear that the actions took place while the trustee was serving as an elected official at another public institution. This information was surprising to us and an issue we take very seriously. 

 Today, December 17, 2021, the HCC Board of Trustees received notice from the trustee who engaged in the illegal actions that she resigns her position from the HCC governing board. 

 The HCC governing board values honesty and integrity. The Board of Trustees remains committed to transparency and acting in the best interest of the public.