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Friday, October 5, 2012 - 22:52
El Paso — The former superintendent of the El Paso Independent School District is headed to prison. Lorenzo Garcia learned his fate today, and the sentence shocked a packed courtroom. It's a story that made national headlines, an El Paso superintendent, arrested and charged in elaborate cheating scheme.
Today Garcia's story finally came to an end, as a judge sentenced him to three and a half years in prison.
"Forty months in a federal prison, we believe is a serious deterrent to other public officials in his shoes and we believe it's a just sentence," said Robert Pitman, a U.S. District Attorney.
The FBI's investigation spanned several years. It all started back in 2006 when the new superintendent was accused of steering a half million dollar contract to his former mistress. The allegations then started piling up. Garcia was then accused of inflating student test scores, so that struggling schools would meet federal standards. He was arrested in 2011, resigned shortly thereafter, and finally plead guilty to the charges this past June as part of a plea deal.
"As his defense attorney's we're satisfied. This is sufficient and proper," said Ray Velarde, Garcia's defense attorney.
"Together we're sending a message, a very strong message that the actions of Mr. Garcia will not be tolerated," said Mark Morgan with the FBI.
Garcia's case may be over, but the corruption case continues. Six other alleged co-conspirators are still out there, unnamed and uncharged. Former State Senator Eliot Shapleigh was one of the first whistle blowers to come forward with the accusations against Garcia. He says he justice won't be served until all are brought to court.
"We need to provide an education to every child. We're going to make sure those kids are found and given and education and if you're committing crimes in the district, you have people to deal with in this community," he said.
In addition to 42 months in prison, Garcia will also have to pay back $180,000 in restitution to EPISD and more than $56,000 to the state. The FBI says the short jail sentence is appropriate because Garcia doesn't have a criminal record.