DALLAS — The former superintendent of a school bus agency embroiled in scandal was sentenced on Wednesday to seven years in federal prison for his role in a bribery scheme that caused the agency’s demise.
As SBF previously reported, Rick Sorrells, who led Dallas County Schools before retiring in March 2017, pleaded guilty in April 2018 to accepting more than $3 million in bribes and kickbacks from Force Multiplier Solutions, a now defunct camera supplier that had been based in Louisiana. Court documents also stated that Sorrells agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud. Prosecutors alleged that Sorrells took payments through fake companies that he and an associate of the camera company created. Sorrells used the money to pay off his credit card and student loan debts, as well as other personal expenses. The scheme took place over about seven years.
Court documents stated that Dallas County Schools had struggled with significant debt and was on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of deals to buy the cameras. The stop-arm cameras were expected to bring in revenue by collecting fees from motorists who drove past stopped school buses. However, Dallas Observer reports, judges threw out many of the tickets based on camera evidence. (Sorrells had signed the agency up for more than $70 million in contracts with the supplier, according to Dallas Observer.)
The process of dismantling Dallas County Schools began in November 2017, as SBF previously reported, when Dallas County voters chose to shut down the struggling agency. A dissolution committee replaced the agency’s board of directors.
Judge Barbara Lynn told Sorrells that he was “the most culpable of defendants” in the case, according to NBC 5. Lynn considered the sentences that other defendants in the case received, including Robert Leonard, the owner of Force Multiplier Solutions, who admitted to paying millions of dollars of bribes to Sorrells and Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, NBC 5 reported in July. (Leonard was sentenced to seven years in federal prison in May, according to the news source.) Lynn also ordered Sorrells to pay $125 million in restitution, and to forfeit any property he bought using the bribe payments.