Three years of Schrenko: looking back

By: Laurie Ott
By: Laurie Ott

A stunner at the Atlanta federal courthouse today as Linda Schrenko pleads guilty to two felony charges: conspiracy and money laundering.

She admitted to helping steal money from Georgia schoolchildren for her gubernatorial campaign.

Part of her deal means she'll serve 8 years in prison.

For Schrenko, this ends two and a half years of investigations into more than $600,000 of federal education money that prosecutors say ended up in her failed campaign for governor.

News 12's Laurie Ott broke the story in 2003 and was the only local reporter in the courtroom Wednesday as Schrenko admitted to her crimes.

Linda Schrenko stood before a federal judge in Atlanta and admitted to her part in stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars that was supposedly for the Georgia Schools for the Deaf and the Governor's Honors Program.

Schrenko told Judge Clarence Cooper she understood her plea agreement, admitting to two felony charges against her: conspiracy and money laundering.

She told Judge Cooper she also understood her sentence would be eight years in federal prison.

It is a far cry from the heady days of becoming the first woman in Georgia elected to statewide office, overseeing a $7 billion budget of both state and federal funds.

But it was the more than $600,000 in federal money she spent that tipped off state auditors something was wrong.

The auditor found she'd spent $663,000 in $50,000 increments for products and services that were never delivered.

News 12's report into the spending, the audit and the companies resulted in a federal investigation...and one year after our stories aired, Schrenko, her former deputy superintendent Merle Temple, and South African businessman Stephan Botes were indicted by a federal grand jury in Atlanta.

Now the 56-year-old former state school superintendent--once the most powerful woman in Georgia--will report to a federal prison before the end of summer.

This means the testimony of state representative Sue Burmeister on campaign contributions is not likely to happen...and it also means Schrenko's daughter is spared having to testify as well.

The trial continues for Botes and Steyn; prosecutors expect it to wrap up this week.


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