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The FBI is using a recent high-profile public corruption case—one that involved a longtime board member of Houston Community College—to raise awareness about unscrupulous officials who violate the public trust for personal gain.

In January 2018, a federal judge sentenced 53-year-old Chris Oliver to 70 months in prison after his conviction on bribery charges. First elected to the community college board in 1995, Oliver held a position of trust—but in 2009, he began soliciting and accepting bribes to influence how lucrative contracts were awarded.

“He had considerable influence,” said Special Agent Mark Michalek, who supervises public corruption investigations in the FBI’s Houston Division. “Eventually someone came forward to report that Oliver was requiring cash bribes in order for people to get contracts or work within the community college network.”

 

Houston Community College (HCC) is one of the largest community college operations in the country, Michalek said, with an annual operating budget that approaches $350 million. At the time of his arrest in 2016, Oliver was vice chair of the board, which consisted of nine members each elected to six-year terms.

The FBI’s investigation revealed that during a period of approximately seven years, Oliver accepted nearly 70 bribe payments totaling more than $225,000 from individuals seeking contracts with HCC to perform work related to the college’s grounds and facilities. Oliver often received cash payments of thousands of dollars stuffed in envelopes, delivered in local coffee shops. “He had been getting away with it for so long, he was brazen—he must have felt he was above the law,” Michalek said. Read more

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The FBI is using a recent high-profile public corruption case—one that involved a longtime board member of Houston Community College—to raise awareness about unscrupulous officials who violate the public trust for personal gain.