Former Alabama school leader admits guilt in school fraud scheme

Published 9:05 pm Thursday, December 16, 2021

A former school superintendent pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiracy in a virtual school fraud case.

Trey Holladay, the former superintendent of the Athens city school system, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge in Montgomery federal court, court records show. Holladay and Tom Sisk, the former superintendent for Limestone County, were among six people indicted early this year in an alleged scheme to illegally boost and pocket school funding.

The defendants were allegedly involved in a complicated scheme to fraudulently enroll students, many from private schools in the Black Belt region, in public virtual schools in north Alabama. Prosecutors said that Holladay, and his co-defendants, would then take portions of the additional state money given to the school systems for their own personal use. According to the indictment, the school systems routed money to companies owned by co-defendants.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Montgomery said in a news release that the defendants offered laptop computers, access to online curriculum, standardized testing and payments to obtain private school student information. The students had little to no connection to the public-school districts and continued to attend private schools each day where their parents paid tuition, prosecutors said.

Federal prosecutors said Holladay faces up to five years in prison. Sisk and others previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government. One defendant is set for trial in February.