4/5/2018Second Guilty Plea In Texas School Bus Camera Bribery Scandal
Former superintendent for Dallas County Schools to plead guilty to federal bribery charges related to school bus camera system.
The former head of the Dallas County, Texas Schools on Tuesday decided to plead guilty to accepting $3 million in bribes related to the use of school bus ticket cameras. Ricky Dale Sorrells, 62, accepted kickbacks from the camera vendor, Force Multiplier Solutions, in return for his help in securing the lucrative $70 million photo enforcement contract.
The scandal brought down Dallas County Schools last year, with 58 percent of voters opting in a referendum to dissolve the school district. Slater Washburn Swartwood Sr, a close friend of Sorrells, admitted his role in the conspiracy in January.
In 2010, Dallas County Schools sought to install stop arm cameras on its school buses which, according to federal investigators, "DCS viewed as a potential source of revenue." The first contract was to provide 150 cameras, but the deal was later expanded to cover every bus in the fleet.
Swartwood was responsible for laundering the bribe payments from Force Multiplier Solutions CEO Robert Leonard. To do so, Swartwood used shell companies he controlled, including Elf Investments, Cambridge Realty Group LLC, and Anrock Realty Services LLC to make payments to shell companies that Sorrells created -- Allegro Research and Consulting, Photo IT Product Development Inc and Sreig International.
Sorrells created invoices for "consulting" services to make the payments appear legitimate, while other payments were fashioned as "loans." Leonard, the camera company CEO, even created a fake Craigslist ad to further disguise the transactions. Eventually, Leonard decided it would leave less of a paper trail if he directly paid off $200,000 worth of credit card and student loan debt for Sorrells.
Federal agents intend to seize all the cars, jewelry and other valuables that Sorrells bought with the camera company funds. This includes a 2014 Maserati Ghibili, originally worth $73,000, and a 2012 Porsche Cayenne SUV -- though the VIN provided by the Department of Justice is actually for a 2015 Mercedes GLK SUV. Sorrells must hand over $65,000 worth of jewelry and $12,292 has been taken from his bank accounts.
Sorrells will enter his plea before US Magistrate Judge Rebecca Rutherford on April 26. As part of his plea deal, his sentence will not exceed ten years behind bars and three years on probation with a $250,000 fine.