Schrenko details money laundering scheme in court

By: Laurie Ott
By: Laurie Ott

One last stand in Atlanta for former state school superintendent Linda Schrenko.

After pleading guilty Wednesday to two felony charges, Schrenko is now a government witness.

News 12's Laurie Ott was the only local reporter in the courtroom for Linda Schrenko's testimony for the prosecution.

"Horrible" and "abysmal" were two words Schrenko used in testifying about her campaign finances in the first five months of 2002.

Prosecutor Russell Vineyard got right to it, with Linda Schrenko admitting on the stand to the jury she'd pleaded guilty to conspiracy and money laundering charges.

Vineyard asked Schrenko if her campaign received funds indirectly from CCSC, the company owned by Stephan Botes. "Yes," said Schrenko.

Schrenko also testified her former deputy superintendent, Merle Temple, told her he was going to quit the Georgia Department of Education to sell CCSC software for Botes, and give his commission to her gubernatorial campaign, in addition to contributing his own money from his retirement fund to help.

Vineyard then asked her how much she'd directed the Georgia Department of Education to send to CCSC. She said in an uncertain tone, "$614, I close?"

"Why?" the prosecutor asked.

"Because I understood the more business that CCSC had, the more commission Merle Temple would make and the more he'd donate to my campaign."

Then Schrenko testified she and Temple took thousands in cash to several people in Augusta: $4,000 to her mother, $5,000 to businessman Mike Deal, and $2,000 to state house representative Sue Burmeister.

Schrenko testified each of them wrote checks back to her campaign.

Then Vineyard asked Schrenko about using her daughter's dental office to funnel $590 checks to her campaign. She testified it was her idea, and that all but one employee agreed to sign the checks and endorse the backs.

However, Schrenko also testified that in September of 2002, after she'd lost the primary, she found out that after spending $614,000 on software, it was never delivered.

Schrenko testified she tried to get Stephan Botes to deliver it, but says she was blocked by the school board.

As for her eight-year prison sentence, Schrenko's attorney Pete Theodocian had this to say: "You know, of course, this is what we agreed to do. But it's really not for us to say what's fair or unfair. I mean, she violated the law. There was a lot of money involved, and she admitted to violating the law, and she's been sentenced accordingly, and so she's going to have to live with that."

Schrenko's testimony did not tie her former co-defendants Stephan Botes or Peter Steyn to this scheme, though prosecutors still have more witnesses to call.

Schrenko also testified about how draining the governor's race had been on her. She said she was often exhausted and cried for hours most nights.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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