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Father, son sentenced in fitness scam

Southland: Total loss not available. Received $10,000 in restitution. An anonymous donor covered part of the losses.

Byron: Lost $195,000. Received $14,000 in restitution. Has had to take a loan to cover loss.

Southland and Byron districts wonder how much they’ll recoup

By Heather J. Carlson

hcarlson@postbulletin.com

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BYRON — A federal judge’s recent sentencing of a father and son for bilking hundreds of school districts out more than $40 million for fitness equipment has local districts, including Byron and Southland, wondering if they will get any more of their money back.

The judge ordered former chief executive officer Cameron J. Lewis, 36, and his father, J. Tyron Lewis, 65, both of Utah, to pay $39 million in restitution. Cameron Lewis was sentenced to 17 years in prison for hatching the idea. His father was sentenced to more than five years in prison.

The Lewises ran the National School Fitness Foundation from 1999 to 2004. Schools bought or leased sets of equipment with the understanding that the foundation would raise charitable donations to reimburse them. But authorities said the pair used the money from newly enlisted schools to make token reimbursements to school that had participated earlier.

The Byron and Southland school districts are among the 350 school districts nationwide and dozens of banks that were defrauded of more than $40 million by the pair. Most of the equipment was good.

Byron Superintendent Wendy Shannon said her district lost $195,000 in the pyramid scheme after buying the equipment for the high school’s fitness room.

"We do not know what additional money we are going to get," Shannon said.

The district had to take out a loan to cover the fitness-equipment losses. So far, the district has received $14,000 in restitution.

Southland Superintendent Gary Kuphal said he did not know how much money the district lost in the scheme because it happened before he started at the district. But he said the district has received $10,000 in restitution and that "someone made the comment this isn’t even close to covering our costs." An anonymous donor helped the district cover part of the losses.

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The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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