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School officials charged with abusing federal program
By Tony Gordon | Daily Herald Staff

Gloria Harper

 

Tyrone Pipkin

 

 1 of 2 
 
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Published: 3/10/2009 5:16 PM

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A member of the North Chicago District 187 school board and a district employee have been charged with falsifying documents in a federal program designed to help underprivileged schools, officials said Tuesday.

Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Scheller said Gloria Harper, 57, of the 2900 block of Argonne Drive in North Chicago, and Tyrone Pipkin, 54, of the 5500 block of Medinah Court in Gurnee, were charged with forgery last week.

Scheller said Harper, a District 187 board member, and Pipkin, the district's director of technology, were investigated by the inspector general's office of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The investigation found a computer company called Computer Training Associates owned by Harper and Pipkin's company, Global Networking Technologies, both did business with the federal government between 2002 and 2005.

They worked with an Interior program called E Rate, which provided federal funds to upgrade computer systems at underprivileged schools, Scheller said.

The investigation found both companies overbilled the federal government more than $241,000 for equipment they supplied an elementary school in Twin Buttes, N.D., Scheller said.

The Department of the Interior sued both companies in federal court and won restitution, Scheller said, but neither Harper nor Pipkin were prosecuted criminally at the federal level.

Scheller said the pair were charged locally because the forgery of a North Dakota school official's name approving company invoices is believed to have been done in Lake County.

The pair appeared in bond court March 2 and were released after each posted $500 for bond.

Neither could be reached for comment Tuesday, but Waukegan attorney Torrie Newsome said both plan to plead not guilty.

"My clients are honorable people and good public servants," Newsome said. "I hope the public will not rush to judgment in this matter."

Calls requesting a comment from District 187 Superintendent Lauri Hakanen were not returned Tuesday.

Pipkin is due to appear in court March 13, and Harper is scheduled for April 7.

Scheller said both face up to five years in prison if convicted, but would also be eligible for probation.