Dallas County Schools

Feds Obtain New Guilty Plea in Dallas County Schools Scandal

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A New Orleans lawyer has admitted to helping conceal $800,000 in bribes in the Dallas County Schools scandal making him the sixth person to plead guilty in federal court since NBC 5 Investigates first uncovered the corruption.

The attorney, Richard Reynolds, admitted in court documents that he drew up false paperwork to cover up bribes that he helped funnel to Rick Sorrells, who at the time was superintendent of DCS.

Under a plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend Reynolds be sentenced to no more than one year in federal prison. An attorney for Reynolds did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sorrells is serving a seven-year sentence in federal prison for his role in the scandal, which the government said cost taxpayers more than $100 million and also brought down Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, the second most powerful official at Dallas City Hall.

Reynolds is the third prominent person from Louisiana to be swept up by the investigation, following Robert Leonard, owner of a school bus camera company that won lucrative contracts with DCS, and Leonard’s friend and business partner, Slater Swartwood Sr.

In July, Dallas County Schools will be shut down forever. In November 2017 voters acted swiftly to close the 172-year-old agency after more than 100 reports from NBC 5 Investigates revealed corruption and staggering financial mismanagement that cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

Sorrells has admitted in federal court to accepting more than $3 million in bribes.

In exchange, Sorrels helped Leonard’s company win contracts to equip DCS school busses with cameras.

Prosecutors said in court documents that Leonard moved some of the bribe money through Reynolds and that the attorney later helped create fake documents to make it look as if Sorrells had received a loan.

Court records show Sorrells used the bribe money to, among other things, buy luxury cars and pay for a condo in New Orleans’ French Quarter, where NBC 5 Investigates caught up with him in 2017.

A beautifully restored, bright yellow building in New Orleans connects two of the central characters in the financial demise of Dallas County Schools and raises significant ethical and legal questions over rules governing conduct between school district officials and their vendors.

Leonard is also serving a seven-year sentence in federal prison. His former business associate Swartwood was given 18 months behind bars and was recently released to finish his time under home confinement.

Once considered to be the next in line to become Dallas mayor, Caraway received more than four years in federal prison after admitting to taking about $450,000 in bribes.

In exchange, Caraway pledged to use his political influence to help advance the DCS camera program. 

Larry Duncan, DCS’ former board president and once a Dallas city councilman, was sentenced to six months in home confinement and given three years of probation after pleading guilty to tax evasion charges connected to the scandal.

Dallas County Schools was shut down after Dallas county voters elected to pull the plug on the scandal-ridden agency in a special election authorized by the Texas legislature. 

Watch the entire NBC 5 Investigates' special report, "Big Buses, Bigger Problems: The $25 Million DCS Land Deal."
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