- Associated Press - Friday, September 11, 2020

CHICAGO (AP) - A former Chicago Public Schools official pleaded guilty Friday to a federal charge of lying to the FBI about whether he passed confidential information regarding a $1 billion custodial contract to an operative for a bidder on the contract.

Pedro Soto, 45, was a former chief of staff to Chicago schools CEO Janice Jackson. He allegedly had numerous discussions about private CPS deliberations with the operative in 2016 and 2017. At the time, CPS was attempting to privatize building maintenance duties. Officials said the move would save millions of dollars.

Soto was the chief of school operations in 2016. The FBI investigation centered on “what benefits Soto solicited, was offered, promised or had received” from the unnamed individual, “and the reasons for (Soto’s) receipt of those benefits,” according to prosecutors.

In an interview with FBI agents, Soto falsely denied that he had shared “non-public information” about the custodial contract with the operative, prosecutors contend.

In 2016, the Chicago Board of Education approved expanded maintenance contracts worth about $500 million to SodexoMAGIC, a company partly controlled by Hall of Fame basketball player Magic Johnson. Jackson has said the company involved in Soto’s case was not awarded any contracts.

According to court documents, Soto is cooperating with prosecutors and has agreed to a delay in his sentencing until his cooperation is no longer needed.

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