Michael Bonds, former president of the Milwaukee Public Schools’ Board, was charged in federal court for taking kickbacks from a charter chain. 

“Bonds is accused of conspiracy and violations of the Travel Act for allegedly accepting kickbacks from executives of the Philadelphia-based Universal Companies in return for votes beneficial to the company between 2014 and 2016. Two unnamed executives of the Philadelphia-based company were implicated in the scheme but not charged.

“According to the charging document, the executives used fake invoices to make payments totaling $6,000 to African-American Books and Gifts, a company purportedly created by Bonds. Efforts to locate a Wisconsin company by that name were not immediately successful.

“The document says Bonds also received “things of value” but did not elaborate. It is seeking $18,000 in forfeitures from Bonds.

“The document identifies the executives only as Universal’s president and chief executive officer, and its chief financial officer. The Philadelphia Inquirer used tax records to identify those individuals as former CEO Rahim Islam and current CFO Shahied Dawan.

“The charges come five months after the FBI raided Universal’s offices and Islam’s home.

“Universal was chartered by MPS to operate the Universal Academy for the College Bound in three Milwaukee school buildings from 2013 until it abruptly left the district in 2017, leaving hundreds of children stranded in the middle of the school year.

“The school received at least $11 million in taxpayer funds in its first two years, according to the court document, yet it struggled academically and financially from the beginning.”