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Former IPS teachers’ union president sentenced to federal prison

Indianapolis – United States Attorney Josh I. Minkler, announced today that Rhondalyn Cornett, 55, of Indianapolis was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt.

“Ms. Cornett held a position of public trust and authority over the students and her fellow colleagues at IPS.” said Minkler. “She violated that trust and took advantage of her authority to line her pockets with others money. She now faces the reality of her greed.”

Cornett began as a teacher with Indianapolis Public Schools in 1994. In 2013, she became the president of the Indiana Educators Association, a division of the Indiana State Teachers Association who represents all the teachers in the Indianapolis Public Schools, the largest school district in Indiana.

Shortly after attaining the presidency, Cornett began a four-year long scheme of embezzlement from the IEA, and ultimately the teachers themselves. The scheme began in 2014, and lasted until her resignation in 2018. She stole over $154,000 from the teachers who serve the most economically disadvantaged students in the state.

In pronouncing her sentence, Judge Pratt specifically noted that Cornett’s embezzlement stole money that was not only meant to benefit the teachers, but ultimately the students of IPS themselves, an act that she called tragic.

This case was jointly investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations – Labor Racketeering and Fraud, Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

“Ms. Cornett sought to personally benefit from funds that should have supported our city’s teachers and their students – money that was aimed at shaping the future of our city,” said IMPD Chief Randal Taylor. “The women and men of the IMPD and our law enforcement partners remain committed to ensuring our city’s educators, and the young people in their care, are never taken advantage of.”

“Intentionally using funds meant for others is unacceptable and this sentence should send a clear message to others who would consider doing the same,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Middleton, FBI Indianapolis. “Public corruption is one of the FBI’s top investigative priorities and we remain committed to identifying and pursuing those who violate the public’s trust.”

“In the case of Rhondalynn Cornett, the tenets of the law have prevailed and the legal system has followed its course. I pray that Ms. Cornett’s faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ will redirect her to become a very productive citizen again in the near future.” said Ronald S. Swann, President, Indianapolis Education Association.

In October 2017, United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced a Strategic Plan designed to shape and strengthen the District’s response to its most significant public safety challenges. This prosecution demonstrates the Office’s firm commitment to prosecuting large-scale fraud schemes that warrant federal resources and arrest those who abuse their positions of trust. See United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Indiana  Strategic Plan  5.3.

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