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DPS kickback scheme mastermind asks for leniency

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The architect of a bribery-and-kickback scheme in the Detroit Public Schools deserves to spend almost six years behind bars, at the least.

Or, he’s a “compassionate” and “devoted” person who, “despite his greed-filled actions in latter years, was an honest, upright businessman for the bulk of his career,” and merits leniency.

Those are dueling descriptions of Norman Shy found in sentencing memorandums from both federal prosecutors and Shy’s lawyer.

Shy, a former school supplies vendor, has pleaded guilty to devising a $2.7 million bribery-and-kickback scheme with a number of former DPS school principals.

They would approve invoices that included supplies he never delivered. Then Shy kicked back a share of his profits to the principals.

The government says calls this all Shy’s “brainchild.”

“The scheme was very clever and its implementation required some considerable forethought,” prosecutors wrote. “Shy’s crime of corrupt payment of kickbacks was not the result of a single bad decision, a momentary impulse, or an isolated exercise of poor judgment.”

They say that a “sentence of “70-87 months … is sufficient but not greater than necessary.”

Shy’s own attorney disagrees, saying a sentence of no more than three years should suffice.

Shy has “taken full and complete responsibility for his conduct,” his lawyer Christopher Andreoff wrote in his sentencing memo.

“He is starkly aware of and deeply regrets the harm that he has caused the school district.”

Andreoff goes on to argue that Shy “is just short of his 75th birthday, is in very poor health, is no longer doing any business with DPS, and will not pose any further danger to the community.”

The memo notes the government is pursuing forfeiture of Shy's "identifiable assets" to pay restitution to DPS, and says a sentence of no more than three years is appropriate.

A federal judge will make the final call on September 6, Shy’s scheduled sentencing date.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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