A Schaumburg-based charter school management company has agreed to pay a $4.5 million fine as part of a settlement to end a federal investigation, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Concept Schools, previously located in Des Plaines, was alleged to have violated the False Claims Act by engaging in noncompetitive bidding practices in connection with the Federal Communications Commissions' E-Rate Program.
Created by Congress as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the E-Rate Program subsidizes eligible equipment and services to make internet access and internal networking more affordable for needy public schools and libraries.
The Justice Department alleged that Concept Schools rigged the bidding for E-Rate contracts between 2009 and 2012 in favor of chosen technology vendors rather than use an open bidding process for its network of 30 taxpayer-financed charter schools in Midwestern states like Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. The government alleged that Concept Schools' chosen vendors provided equipment at inflated prices and that some of the equipment went missing.
The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, so Concept can deny any wrongdoing.