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Here's a new way to rake in several hundred thousand dollars in a year with little more than an Internet connection and some crooked friends working in a nearby school district. It does not involve drugs, nor any illegal substances or shady-seeming businesses. Nor was there a plot to profit from local high schoolers' standardized testing hysteria—these districts are not so affluent.

Just textbooks. Thousands of them, embezzled from four school districts in the Los Angeles region and sold, in some cases, back to the same schools from which they had been smuggled.

For the district employees who handled the grunt work—a couple of librarians, some office technicians, a campus supervisor, and others—the scheme netted about $200,000 in bribe money, reports the Los Angeles Times. (They have all been charged.) For the mastermind who carried out the plot between 2008 and 2010—a businessman named Corey Frederick—it could yield more than 19 years in prison if he is convicted. 

Here is how he did it:

  • Frederick had his team of inside agents, all motivated by bribes, quietly smuggle thousands of textbooks from "four of the region's most financially strapped school districts"—7,000 from one district alone—where they were then employed.
  • Frederick set up an online book-selling business under the name "Doorkeeper Textz," seemingly like hundreds of other such schoolbook destinations.
  • Frederick sold the the stolen merchandise to legitimate textbook distributors, including Amazon. (For a look at how this could yield profits, take a look at the going prices for, say, high school chemistry textbooks.)
  • These vendors would then, in some cases, resell the books right back to the schools from which they'd been taken. (That the schools had no book-tracking system made this quite easy.)
  • Frederick paid his smugglers handsomely for their help—and silence. According to CNN, some received hundreds—others, up to $47,000.
  • Repeat.

It's unclear just how Frederick was found out; the L.A. Times simply says "police notified prosecutors of an alleged embezzlement in their district." His current charges: 12 counts of embezzlement, 13 of offering a bribe.

No word on whether or not his profits are enough to match his hefty bail: $843,000.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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