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Former Buffalo school administrator's son gets probation

With the help of his mother, a top administrator in Buffalo’s public schools at the time, Hassan El Saddique stole from an anti-poverty program.

He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in June, just three weeks after his mother, former Assistant School Superintendent Debbie Buckley, acknowledged her lead role in the scheme.

On Wednesday, a federal judge sentenced El Saddique to a year of probation.

"I didn't mean to defraud anybody," he told U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny.

From Day One, the prosecution centered on Buckley and the allegation that she stole from a federally funded program intended to help low-income students. It was a program she oversaw as assistant superintendent.

El Saddique, 37,  as part of his plea deal with federal prosecutors, acknowledged taking part in the scheme by submitting fraudulent invoices for his job as a computer consultant with the school district.

In asking for leniency, El Saddique said he spent time at several Buffalo schools but acknowledged not fulfilling the requirements of his contract.

"He never set out to steal from the Buffalo public schools," said defense lawyer Thomas J. Eoannou. "He didn't get into this to be a bad guy or hurt anyone."

Investigators say the amount Buckley and her son stole, about $15,000, is relatively small in comparison to the overall size of the anti-poverty program, but suggested the thefts are symbolic of a bigger problem.

The prosecution also is seen by parent activists and other critics as evidence of a school district that was late discovering the thefts and, when it did, looked the other way.

For a year and a half, Buckley served as an assistant superintendent in the Buffalo district, overseeing more than $100 million a year in federal grants. That ended in September 2011, when she was escorted out of her City Hall office and placed on paid leave. She was eventually fired.

Buckley is scheduled to be sentenced next month and the maximum recommended sentence could be as high as 12 months or as low as six months, depending on what Skretny determines is the amount lost. Her plea agreement also spells out several alternatives, including home confinement, probation and community service.

email: pfairbanks@buffnews.com

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