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High School AD Pleads Guilty to Bid-Rigging

Fitzgerald Barnes, athletic director at Monticello High School in Charlottesville, Va., pleaded guilty to embezzling money from federal taxpayers on Friday in federal court.

Barnes, David Deane and Charles Albert Phillips were involved in a bid-rigging scheme in the Charlottesville area involving athletic apparel purchases. According to court testimony, Phillips made fake bids from his company, Team Distributor, to help Deane (of Downtown Athletics) gain business from Monticello High School.

Between August 2008 and August 2010, Barnes and Deane worked together to bypass an Albermarle County policy that requires purchases of items above $1000 to undergo a bidding process involving, at a minimum, three different vendors. Deane created two fake companies to bid against Phillips in an effort to assure that Downtown Athletics, who would place the lowest bid, would win.

All three men pled guilty to one count of embezzling money, a federal misdemeanor. 

Prosecutors didn't request prison sentences, but did order Phillips to pay a $350 fine, Barnes to pay a $750 fine and Deane to pay a $1,500 fine. According to a statement issued on behalf of Deane, "Downtown Athletic did not receive any money that it should not have received, and Monticello High School was not charged higher prices than it should have been. This case was not about financial loss, but about sloppy procedures and sloppy implementation."

Barnes is currently on administrative leave and his future employment with the school under review. The district says changes have been made to athletic department procurement procedures, including more controls and oversight. 

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