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Brownsville ISD official arrested just before board meeting, suspected of corruption and conspiracy

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Posted at 4:37 PM, Dec 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-11 17:37:59-05

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — The vice president of the Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) Board of Trustees was arrested Tuesday night as she arrived for a school district meeting.

Sylvia P. Atkinson, 48m is facing eight charges of conspiracy and corruption. The charges allege a long-running criminal scheme to solicit bribes from vendors seeking to obtain contracts with BISD and RHISD. The contracts would provide various goods and services to the school districts, including computer tablets, medical teleconferencing services and tutorial services, according to the indictment. In 2018, Atkinson also allegedly solicited and received a $10,000 bribe from an undercover agent related to a film crew's potential use of BISD facilities for filming a Hollywood movie.

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.