A federal civil asset forfeiture complaint was filed last Friday against Houston Independent School District’s (HISD) former Chief Operating Officer (COO) Brian Busby, who is accused of receiving cash kickbacks from a landscaping contractor for a series of projects that were never performed.
The forfeiture complaint is seeking to confiscate more than $185,000 that was seized in February 2020 from the residences of Busby and the contractor. Though Busby has not been charged with a crime, the filing alleges that the money is traceable to “the proceeds of federal programs theft and wire fraud.” It is unclear if Busby has acquired legal representation.
According to the complaint, the former COO is accused of conspiring with an unnamed district contractor who owns a lawn and landscaping business that received a multi-million dollar contract with HISD in 2016 to provide services that include renovating athletic playing fields, grounds maintenance, irrigation, landscaping, and tree pruning and removal.
The filing alleges “there is reason to believe” that he, the contractor, and other unnamed individuals conspired to get HISD to pay the contractor’s company “for work that it did not perform.” Sometimes HISD workers performed a portion of the contracted work, often at overtime rates, the complaint claims.
The accused allegedly approved payments for the contractor in exchange for secret cash kickbacks. The investigation found that he would sometimes allegedly make multiple cash deposits into bank accounts he controlled shortly after meeting the contractor or the contractor’s representatives.
Federal agents raided the HISD headquarters and his home on February 27 and seized more than $90,150 in cash. They also reportedly raided the contractor’s home and seized another $95,874. The forfeiture filing is seeking to confiscate the money in rem.
The contractor worked for HISD for more than 20 years, rising from a custodian to becoming COO, which is reportedly the school district’s second-highest post with an annual salary of $221,000. His duties as COO included overseeing an annual operating budget of over $260 million and leading departments that collectively employ over 7,000 people. He was placed on paid leave following the February raid and is now no longer employed by the district, sources indicate.
A person may face civil or criminal asset forfeiture if he or she possesses property (cash, real estate, vehicles) that is allegedly tied to illegal activity. The forfeiture filing against the accused is alleging that the seized cash is traceable to offenses of theft of federal funds and wire fraud, which constitute “specified unlawful activity.” Civil asset forfeiture is not contingent upon a conviction and has much lower standards of proof, meaning a property owner does not have to be charged with a crime before their property is seized by law enforcement agencies.
It is imperative for anyone who is served a civil asset forfeiture complaint to immediately consult an attorney. An experienced attorney will know what procedures and deadlines apply in the case and can immediately file a recovery claim on the defendant’s behalf.
South Florida Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
Has your property been seized using asset forfeiture? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and work with one of South Florida’s most experienced civil asset forfeiture defense attorneys.