New York businessman sentenced in EPISD cheating scheme

El Paso Times, Texas/August 1, 2013

By Cindy Ramirez

A New York businessman [once associated with the group NXIVM led by Keith Raniere] has been sentenced to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay $2.89 million in restitution to the El Paso Independent School District for his role in a scheme to land and maintain a lucrative contract with the district from 2003 to 2007.

Joseph O'Hara, 65, of Albany, N.Y., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo in El Paso on Tuesday, FBI and Department of Justice officials announced.

Montalvo also ordered that O'Hara be placed under supervised release for three years after he completes his prison term. O'Hara is to report to prison by Dec. 3.

In May, O'Hara pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and deprivation of honest services.

By pleading guilty, O'Hara admitted that from February 2003 to October 2007, he and a partner, Gary Lange of Haslett, Mich., conspired with two EPISD officials to secure and maintain a contract with the district to provide software to the district's special education department, as well as to provide services to obtain federal and state reimbursements for special education programs, according to FBI and Department of Justice officials.

O'Hara's company failed to provide working software to EPISD as required in the contract and it submitted improper claims for reimbursement funds, according to a news release from the office of U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman of the Western District of Texas.

In August 2012, former EPISD District Associate Superintendent Tomas Gabaldon was sentenced to four years in federal prison and ordered to pay over $2 million in restitution to for his role in the scheme.

Former EPISD Trustee Sal Mena and Lange are awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges.

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