HOUSTON - As the case against several Houston ISD officials involved in a bribery scheme continues, we've learned new tax charges have been filed.
BACKGROUND DETAILS: Former HISD COO, district vendor indicted in multimillion-dollar kickback scheme
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Brian Busby, 43, the former Chief Operating Officer for HISD, and contract vendor Anthony Hutchinson, 61, are facing new tax charges in relation the case.
Both were initially charged in mid-December 2021 for allegedly conspiring to engage in a bribery scheme, where Busby helped award HISD construction and grounds maintenance contracts in exchange for cash bribes and hundreds of thousands of dollars in home remodeling.
The new charges claim the two filed false tax returns underreporting their income related to the scheme. Additionally, the court documents state Hutchinson falsely stated on the memo line of checks they were in payment for work that had been done on HISD properties.
More specifically, Hutchinso reportedly got the cash used to pay bribes to HISD officials by writing checks to vendors, who then cashed the checks and provided it back to him.
"Hutchison falsely stated on the memo line of the checks that they were in payment for work that had been performed on HISD properties," the press release states. "He then caused the checks to be improperly deducted on corporate tax returns as business expenses."
Attorneys also say Hutchinson caused his gambling losses to be "improperly deducted" on corporate tax returns as alleged business expenses his companies incurred on construction or landscaping projects for HISD.
Busby meanwhile, hid his involvement in the scheme by making cash deposits of the bribe proceeds into several bank accounts as well as falsely filing tax returns that failed to declare the cash bribes and other benefits as income.
To date, five other HISD officials in relation to the scheme pleaded guilty to their involvement including Rhonda Skillern-Jones (former HISD Board of Education president), 39, Houston; Derrick Sanders (officer of construction services), 50, Alfred Hoskins, (general manager of facilities, maintenance and operations), 58, Gerron Hall (area manager for maintenance - south), 48, all of Missouri City; and Luis Tovar (area manager for maintenance - north), 39, Huffman.
As part of their pleas, Hoskins, Sanders, Hall, Tovar, and Skillern-Jones admitted to conspiring with Busby and Hutchison to accept Hutchison’s bribes for helping to award, or not interfering in the award of, HISD contracts to Hutchison.
Once Busby and Hutchison learned of the federal criminal probe, court officials say they tried to interfere in the investigation. As a result, they're both charged with conspiracy, bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, and witness tampering. Hutchison is also charged with wire fraud.
The two are expected to make their appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge in the near future. If convicted, they will face up to five, 10, and 20 years, respectively for the conspiracy, bribery, and witness tampering charges. Hutchinson also faces up to 20 years for each count of wire fraud. The new charges add possible 3-year-prison terms for each of the tax charges, upon conviction. All charges also carry a $250,000 maximum possible fine.
FOX 26 heard back from the attorney representing Brian Busby late Thursday night, Attorney Dick DeGuerin. He says in a statement:
"He [Brian] worked for HISD over 20 years, rising from being a janitor to chief operating officer and he never took a penny that he wasn’t entitled to from anyone. He’s always accurately reported his income. I’m sure a fair jury will agree and find him not guilty."