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Brownsville ISD’s Dishonest former VP Receives Sentencing Reprieve from Trump-Appointed Federal Judge

Atkinson faced conspiracy, bribery and six counts of travel act-state law bribery. A jury found Sylvia Atkinson guilty on all eight charges.

School board leader finally sentenced to 80 months prison in corruption scheme

MAY 26, 2021

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The former vice president of the Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) Board of Trustees has been ordered to federal prison following her convictions of conspiracy and corruption, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

A Brownsville federal jury returned guilty verdicts Nov. 4, 2020, against Sylvia P. Atkinson, 49, Brownsville, following an eight-day trial. She was convicted of one count of conspiracy, one count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and six counts of Travel Act violations.

Today, U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez Jr., who presided over the trial, ordered Atkinson to serve a total 80-month sentence to be followed by three years of supervised release. The Judge also imposed a $35,000 fine to be paid immediately.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Rodriguez noted how Atkinson’s crime took on great significance because of the abuse of the public trust and the need for a sentence that will deter others from engaging in similar conduct.

The court specifically found Atkinson had lied extensively in her testimony at trial and assessed an obstruction of justice enhancement at sentencing. Judge Rodriguez further commented that Atkinson’s story on the stand unbelievable and clearly a lie.

Atkinson was elected to the BISD Board of Trustees Nov. 4, 2016, and appointed vice president in 2018. During her career in education, she has served as the superintendent of Socorro, Santa Rosa and Los Fresnos school districts, assistant superintendent of BISD and Rio Hondo ISD (RHISD) and the executive director of High School Programs and Community Outreach at Texas Southmost College.

During trial, the jury heard from several witnesses including BISD Board of Trustees members and its attorney as well as officials of Texas Education Agency and Texas Association of School Boards. They detailed how Atkinson orchestrated a long-running criminal scheme to solicit bribes from vendors seeking to obtain contracts with BISD and RHISD.

From December 2018 through February 2019, Atkinson solicited and received a $10,000 bribe related to a film crew’s potential use of BISD facilities for filming a purported Hollywood movie. She also received illegal campaign contributions in 2014 and 2016 for her and another person.

The jury also heard how she had set up a shadow company with sales employees from potential educational and telehealth vendors who desired to do business with BISD and RHISD. Atkinson arranged both school meetings although she knew there was a conflict of interest in doing so. She also set up the company to hide her involvement and potential profit from any business those vendors obtained with BISD and RHISD.

The defense attempted to convince the jury that she had been acting as a “consultant” when she accepted payment. The jury, however, found the payments were bribes and found her guilty as charged.

Atkinson was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The FBI conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office and Brownsville Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jody Young and Robert S. Johnson prosecuted the case.

Now it’s moved again, to May 18, 2021 at 0830 hrs.

Federal judges in the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of Texas have moved Sylvia Atkinson’s sentencing date to May 4, 2021, extending it two weeks past where it was formerly to take place on April 20. The original sentencing date was set for February 9.

U.S. District Court
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS (Brownsville)
CRIMINAL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 1:19-cr-01097-1

Case title: USA v. Atkinson Date Filed: 12/10/2019

 

Date Filed # Docket Text
04/20/2021 172 ORDER as to Sylvia P Atkinson granting 171 Sealed Event ( Sentencing set for 5/18/2021 at 08:30 AM in Courtroom 6 before Judge Fernando Rodriguez Jr) ( Signed by Judge Fernando Rodriguez, Jr) Parties notified. (balvina, 1) (Entered: 04/20/2021)

Sentencing for former Brownsville ISD school board trustee delayed

DEC 21, 2020 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: FEB 22, 2021

Brownsville, Texas —The sentencing of former BISD board of trustee Sylvia P. Atkinson was moved to April 20, 2021. Atkinson’s sentencing was originally scheduled for Feb. 9, 2021, but she filed an extension that was granted by Judge Fernando Rodriguez. (Bankruptcy judge, S.D. Tex.).

Atkinson was faced one count of conspiracy, one count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, and six counts of travel act-state law bribery. In Nov. a jury found Atkinson guilty on all eight charges.

Atkinson was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in December 2019 after being indicted by a grand jury.

According to the indictment, Atkinson used her position as a Brownsville ISD employee to, “obtain money from private companies and private individuals in exchange for assistance in obtaining contracts with BISD or Rio Hondo ISD.”

United States v. Atkinson (1:19-cr-01097) District Court, S.D. Texas

Description Disposition
Pending Count Ct. 8s: Travel Act-State Law Bribery 18 USC 1952 and 2(8s) None
Pending Count Ct. 8: Travel Act-State Law Bribery 18 USC 1952 and 2(8) None
Pending Count Ct. 7s: Travel Act-State Law Bribery 18 USC 1952 and 2(7s) None
Pending Count Ct. 7: Travel Act-State Law Bribery 18 USC 1952 and 2(7) None
Pending Count Ct. 6s: Travel Act-State Law Bribery 18 USC 1952 and 2(6s) None
Pending Count Ct. 6: Travel Act-State Law Bribery 18 USC 1952 and 2(6) None
Pending Count Ct. 5s: Travel Act-State Law Bribery 18 USC 1952 and 2(5s) None
Pending Count Ct. 5: Travel Act-State Law Bribery 18 USC 1952 and 2(5) None
Pending Count Ct. 4s: Travel Act-State Law Bribery 18 USC 1952 and 2(4s) None
Pending Count Ct. 4: Travel Act-State Law Bribery 18 USC 1952 and 2(4) None
Pending Count Ct. 3s: Travel Act-State Law Bribery 18 USC 1952 and 2(3s) None
Pending Count Ct. 3: Travel Act-State Law Bribery 18 USC 1952 and 2(3) None
Pending Count Ct. 2s: Bribery Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds 18 USC 666 (a)(1)(B) and 2(2s) None
Pending Count Ct. 2: Bribery Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds 18 USC 666 (a)(1)(B) and 2(2) None
Pending Count Ct. 1s: Conspiracy 18 USC 371(1s) None
Pending Count Ct. 1: Conspiracy 18 USC 371(1) None
Complaint None None

 

 

Brownsville ISD Vice President indicted on charges of conspiracy and corruption

DEC 11, 2019 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: FEB 22, 2021

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The vice president of the Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) Board of Trustees is now in custody on charges of conspiracy and corruption.

A federal grand jury returned the eight-count indictment Dec. 10 against Sylvia P. Atkinson, 48, of Brownsville. It was unsealed as authorities took her into custody upon her arrival for a scheduled BISD meeting last night. She is expected to make her initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald G. Morgan today at 10 a.m.

The indictment alleges Atkinson was elected to the BISD Board Nov. 4, 2016, and appointed vice president in 2018. During her career in education, she has served as the superintendent of Socorro, Santa Rosa and Los Fresnos school districts, assistant superintendent of BISD and Rio Hondo ISD (RHISD) and is currently the executive director of High School Programs and Community Outreach at Texas Southmost College, according to the indictment.

Atkinson is charged with one count each of conspiracy, bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds as well as six counts of violation of the Travel Act. For the conspiracy and each Travel Act violation, she faces up the five years in prison, while the bribery charge carries a possible 10-year term of imprisonment, upon conviction.

The FBI conducted the investigation.

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Brownsville ISD’s Dishonest former VP Receives Sentencing Reprieve from Trump-Appointed Federal Judge
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