February 25, 2021

Six former Alabama educators accused of fraud, conspiracy in sweeping federal indictment

Federal prosecutors unsealed a 127-count indictment against six former Alabama education officials including two county school superintendents, teachers and a former coach in what prosecutors allege was a sweeping scheme to defraud the state’s education department by falsely claiming students from other districts were attending a virtual academy they created.

Indicted in the alleged scheme are:

  • William Lee “Trey” Holladay III, who was the superintendent of the Athens City School District.
  • Deborah Irby “Deb” Holladay, who worked as a teacher in the district and married to Trey Holladay.
  • William Richard “Rick” Carter Jr., who was a teacher and programs administrator at the Athens City School District.
  • Gregory Earl “Greg” Corkren, a retired public educator and school administrator.
  • David Webb Tutt, Marengo County resident who held several positions including football coach of Marengo Academy in Linden.
  • Thomas Michael “Tom” Sisk, who was superintendent of the Limestone County School Superintendent.

The indictment suggests the scheme began in the Athens City School District with the formation of the Athens Renaissance School. Prosecutors describe the Athens Renaissance School as a “virtual and blended K-12 public school” that was operated by the Athens school district.

Prosecutors allege that between February 2016 and August 2018, the accused worked together to falsely inflate the number of students attending the Renaissance School to obtain more state education money.

Essentially, prosecutors say that through deals with school districts around the state of Alabama, the group enrolled students into the Renaissance School. They convinced several Alabama school districts to provide student data in exchange for laptop computers and other services.

Subsequently, the Renaissance School obtained state funding based on overinflated enrollment numbers using information for students who were actually enrolled in local brick-and-mortal schools and were not, in fact, taking enough virtual courses to qualify as being full-time at the virtual school they had created.

The indictment alleges the group even urges participating Alabama private schools to create fake Alabama addresses for students who actually lived in the neighboring states of Georgia and Mississippi. Prosecutors allege Corkren looked up vacant real estate online and used the addresses of houses for sale as phony addresses for out-of-state students.

They used the fraudulently sourced funds to, in part, complete capital projects in their own school district including the construction of a new Athens High School, the indictment alleges.