Feds accuse former HISD employee in kickback scheme

BySarah Rafique KTRK logo
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
FBI investigating HISD administration building
Here's what we know about the FBI investigation going on at Houston ISD's administration building.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- More than six months after the FBI conducted an investigation at the home of then-Houston Independent School District's chief operating officer Brian Busby, a civil filing shows more than $186,000 were seized from Busby and a contractor in connection with a kickback scheme.

In March, the FBI was spotted at Busby's home and also spent more than three hours at HISD's administration building conducting an investigation. HISD is not listed as a party in the civil litigation involving Busby.

As chief operating officer at HISD, Busby, who is no longer employed by the district, oversaw an annual operating budget of more than $260 million and led a workforce of more than 7,000 employees, including facilities, maintenance and operations of school grounds.

RELATED: FBI at HISD admin building months after allegations of mismanagement

A six-page federal document filed Friday accuses Busby of conspiring with a lawn and landscaping business as part of a kickback scheme.

"There is reason to believe that the COO conspired with the Contractor and others to cause HISD to approve proposals submitted by the Contractor's business and to pay the Contractor's business for work that it did not perform. At times, HISD employees performed a portion of the contracted work, often at overtime rates," according to a civil forfeiture complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Houston area. "In order to share the criminal proceeds the Contractor obtained from the fraud, the Contractor paid kickbacks to the COO, including cash kickbacks."

More than $90,000 was seized from Busby's residence in February, according to the court documents.

An additional $73,474 were seized from the home of someone who contracts with the district, and about $22,000 were seized from that contractor's vehicle.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office-Southern District of Texas said it "cannot comment on the existence or non-existence of any possible investigation nor speculate as to any possible charges."

Busby was initially assigned to at-home duty with pay on Feb. 27, after the district learned of the FBI's investigation. In a memo to Busby in May, the district directed Busby not to communicate with any other HISD employees. The district did not offer him a contract for the 2020-21 school year, and his last day with the district was Aug. 31.

"The federal investigation is ongoing and HISD is cooperating with federal law enforcement. Beyond that, the district has no comment on the matter," HISD said in a statement on Monday.

NOTE: Video above is from a previously published story on February 28, 2020.