Man pleads guilty to defrauding school internet program

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Kentucky man has pleaded guilty to a multi-million dollar fraud scheme targeting a federal program that gives money to rural schools for internet access, prosecutors in Tennessee said.

Charles A. “Chuck” Jones, 51, has pleaded guilty in Memphis federal court to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release Friday. He faces up to 20 years in prison at sentencing scheduled for June 1.

Prosecutors said Jones targeted schools in Missouri and Tennessee that benefited from the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate Program, which provides money to needy schools for internet access and telecommunications services.

During a 10-year period, Jones paid kickbacks to an E-Rate consultant working with the schools involved in the case. Jones, one of his employees, and the school E-Rate consultant lied on documents sent to the E-Rate Program, using the schools as vehicles to fraudulently obtain money for Jones, prosecutors said.

The loss to the E-Rate Program was about $6.9 million dollars, prosecutors said.

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