Ex-Kaplan dean convicted of e-mail, web threats

 
Bloomberg News
Updated 12/10/2010 3:41 PM
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  • Bennie Wilcox

    Bennie Wilcox Bloomberg News

A former dean at Washington Post Co.'s Kaplan higher-education unit was found guilty by a federal jury in Chicago of making threats in e-mails and Web postings.

Bennie Wilcox, former Kaplan University dean of law and legal studies, was convicted on all six counts against him today by a panel of five men and seven women. He faces as long as 18 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines. U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning set April 5 for sentencing. Wilcox and his wife, Kari, declined to speak to reporters before leaving the courthouse.

Wilcox, 45, denied writing the 2007 e-mail messages and Internet postings underlying the charges and said he was framed in retaliation for filing a whistleblower lawsuit accusing Kaplan of committing fraud to get U.S. aid.

"On July 13th 2007 we will take all of KU down and off line forever," said a June 11, 2007, message attributed by prosecutors to Wilcox and sent under another employee's name. Another message sent that day threatened Kaplan Chief Executive Officer Andrew S. Rosen.

Prosecutors presented evidence that they said tied Wilcox to the messages, as well as handwritten and videotaped confessions he disavowed when testifying at the trial.

Wilcox, whom Kaplan hired in 2005 and fired the following year, was charged with six counts of sending threatening and harassing communications. Kaplan turned over evidence to authorities that led to the March 2008 indictment.

Kaplan Higher Education is based in Chicago. Kaplan enrolls 110,000 students, with about 70,000 attending classes online, and has 75 campuses nationwide, Ron Iori, a company spokesman, said. Kaplan University derived 87 percent of its revenue from federal student aid in 2009.

Washington Post Co. obtained almost two-thirds of its third-quarter revenue from the Kaplan unit, the Washington-based company said Nov. 5.

The case is U.S. v. Wilcox, 1:08-cr-00256, U.S. District Court, Northern Division of Illinois (Chicago).