Millions meant to provide Internet access at New York City schools were instead stolen by a Department of Education consultant who used some of the cash to buy luxury cars, federal prosecutors said.
Investigators said consultant Willard Lanham pocketed $3.6 million even though he did no work on the project.
Lanham allegedly stole the money meant for children to pay for his “extravagant personal luxuries.” Prosecutors said the scam lasted for more than six years.
Lanham was supposed to help oversee "Project Connect,' which provided Internet access to all public schools. Officials said he was able to steal the money because he hired a relative and over-billed subcontractors pocketing the difference.
“Lanham effectively stole from schoolchildren so he could buy fancy cars and valuable real estate,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “We will not tolerate people who abuse their positions of trust to line their own pockets.”
Bharara said he spent more than $600,000 on luxury autos, including a Porsche, a Lexus, a Corvette and a Cadillac Escalade.
Special Commissioner Richard Condon said Lanham engaged in a "lucrative scheme to enrich himself” while he was already earning about $200,000 per year.
Lanham's lawyer Joseph Ryan said his client "denies that he is guilty of any wrongdoing, and looks forward to his vindication in the federal court."