Feds Allege $3M in Bribes, Kickbacks Paid to Top DCS Official

For the first time, federal prosecutors have lifted the veil on their investigation into the financial demise of the Dallas County Schools agency.

(Published Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017)

For the first time, federal prosecutors have lifted the veil on their investigation into the financial demise of the Dallas County Schools agency.

The new revelations, in court documents, detail a plea deal with New Orleans businessman Slater Swartwood Sr.

Federal prosecutors have filed charges in a months-long investigation into huge financial losses at Dallas County Schools, the troubled busing agency voters elected to shut down earlier this year.

(Published Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017)

Prosecutors allege he was the middle man in a scheme that funneled millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks from a school bus camera company — to a top DCS official — in exchange for business deals with that government agency.

The DCS official, who is not identified in the federal complaint, received more than $3 million dollars in bribes and kickbacks in all — money that even paid portions of his credit card debts and his son's student loans, according to the federal complaint.

Prosecutors say in the document: "The co-conspirators also spent a significant amount of time discussing how to get their stories straight so they could explain the paper trail left by the multi-year bribery scheme they had engaged in."

While the documents do not name the DCS superintendent, Rick Sorrells was the superintendent during the time the camera contracts were signed.

An assistant superintendent at Dallas County Schools asked a vendor last year to make large donations to a Dallas charity group which, at the time, was led by DCS superintendent Rick Sorrells, NBC 5 Investigates has learned.

(Published Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017)

And Robert Leonard was the top executive at the camera company, Force Multiplier Solutions.

As NBC5 Investigates has reported, Sorrells and Leonard had a personal relationship — sharing side-by-side apartments in a luxury building in the New Orleans French Quarter.

Sorrells still denied any wrongdoing when we caught up with him in New Orleans earlier this year.

When NBC5 Investigates asked who was paying for the apartment, Sorrells said, "I am."

Dallas County Schools, the troubled agency voters elected to close, plans to turn over crossing guard program to the City of Dallas next month. The state says DCS can no longer afford to pay crossing guards.

(Published Monday, Dec. 18, 2017)

And when asked if Leonard was involved in getting the apartment, Sorrells said, “No he’s not.”

Through his attorney, Leonard has said he did nothing wrong, disagreed with the government’s view of the case, and that more facts will come to light.

Swartwood also denied any wrongdoing when NBC5 Investigates reached him in New Orleans earlier this year.

We wanted to talk to Swartwood after discovering he received $750,000 from a questionable Dallas County Schools land deal — a deal he admitted he became involved with through Leonard, a long time business associate of his.

Emails obtained by NBC 5 Investigates reveal gifts provided by bus camera vendor Force Multiplier Solutions to Larry Duncan when he was board president at Dallas County Schools.

(Published Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017)

Documents in the land deal listed Swartwood as the broker, though he has said that, instead, he was a real estate consultant for DCS.

"Bob Leonard is going to answer that question today," he said at the time, when asked about the land transaction.

Swartwood also told NBC5 Investigates that Leonard suggested he become part of the land deal, "Because of my background. I'm a consultant for him..."

Attorneys for Swartwood and Sorrells did not respond to requests for comment for this report. And Leonard’s lawyer said he would need more time to review the complaint against Swartwood.

The Dallas Independent School District is preparing to hire more than 1,100 Dallas County Schools employees after voters decided this month to close DCS at the end of the current school year.

(Published Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017)

Court papers show Swartwood has now agreed to plead guilty to money laundering conspiracy charges, and will testify for prosecutors in a deal that caps the maximum sentence at five years in prison, if convicted.

Read more: Big Buses, Bigger Problems: Investigating DCS