BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A former Socorro Independent School District superintendent is being held on $50,000 bond on federal corruption and conspiracy charges, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas.
Sylvia P. Atkinson, 48, currently the vice president of the Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees, was indicted by a federal grand jury earlier this week.
That indictment was unsealed as the FBI arrested Atkinson at the start of a Brownsville school board meeting. It alleges a long-running criminal scheme to solicit bribes from vendors seeking to obtain school contracts.
"The contracts would provide various goods and services to the school districts, including computer tablets, medical teleconferencing services and tutorial services," according to U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
The indictment also spells out a 2018 incident in which Atkinson allegedly solicited and received a $10,000 bribe from an undercover agent posing as the leader of a film crew desiring to use school facilities for a purported Hollywood movie.
Atkinson entered a not guilty plea to the charges during an initial appearance before a federal magistrate in Brownsville on Wednesday. If convicted on all eight-counts of the indictment, she could face up to 40 years in prison.
She was elected as a Brownsville school trustee in 2016, and appointed vice president of the district in 2018. Atkinson has also served as a superintendent in several school Texas school districts, including a stint in Socorro during 2007 and 2008.