FBI agents seized documents and computer files April 19 from the office of Prince George’s County, Md., schools chief Andre Hornsby as part of an investigation into his dealings with education vendors.

The seizure came after an inquiry launched last fall into Hornsby’s vendor dealings, including his purchase of $1 million in software from a company that employed his live-in girlfriend as a saleswoman. The agents’ action, taken while Hornsby was out of town, caught school officials off guard.

“For me, this was a surprise. They never contacted me, and I never knew what was going on,” said school board Chairwoman Beatrice P. Tignor, who has defended Hornsby. “As soon as we can get [the board] together, we’ll be meeting to discuss the overall implications this has.”

The FBI agents, with a search warrant, visited Hornsby’s office at school system headquarters and an administrative building that houses the system’s technology department, said district spokesman John White. White could not specify what kind of materials agents sought.

FBI spokesman Barry Maddox declined to comment on the agents’ visit. The federal investigation was launched last fall after reports in the Baltimore Sun regarding Hornsby’s dealings with several education vendors. The paper reported that Hornsby had overseen the purchase last June of $1 million in early literacy technology from LeapFrog SchoolHouse, which a few months before had hired his girlfriend, Sienna Owens, as a saleswoman.

Owens said in October that she had nothing to do with the deal and had not benefited from it, and the LeapFrog saleswoman assigned to Maryland, Debora Adam, said she had received the full commission on the sale, estimated at $40,000.

However, in December both saleswomen left the firm after a company inquiry into the commission paid on the Prince George’s sale. The company’s president, Bob Lally, also left after the internal inquiry (see “LeapFrog SchoolHouse president resigns“).

Hornsby, who assumed the $250,000 job almost two years ago, has maintained that the purchase had nothing to do with Owens and that he was not aware of her benefiting from the deal.

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