DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Five days after Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway voted in favor of putting cameras on school buses, he was at a liquor store cashing a check for $5,000.
That was back in May of 2012.
Since then, Caraway has amassed cash, gifts, paid travel, real estate consultancy and money to his campaign, according to court documents.
Caraway pled guilty to federal corruption charges Thursday, and resigned from his position on the Dallas City Council effective immediately.
“This case,” U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox explained on Thursday morning, “and the guilty pleas in this case, reflect harmful and criminal conduct by both politicians and business executives — public officials who betray their position of trust and harm the integrity of our government.”
In total, Caraway accepted $450,000 from Robert Leonard and Slater Swartwood, with a substantial portion paid through Swartwood’s company, ELF Investments (under a real estate consultancy).
Robert Leonard is the president and owner of school bus camera vendor Force Multiplier Solutions in Dallas. He also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. Company associate Slater Swartwood and former Dallas County Schools superintendent Rick Sorrells had pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges earlier this year.
Caraway voted in favor of a Dallas City ordinance on May 23, 2012 that created a civil offense and fine for passing a raised stop-arm camera on a school bus. The ordinance was consistent with Leonard’s and FXS’s proposal. Caraway admitted he knew that the vote would benefit Leonard financially and knew that FXS needed the ordinance for its program with Dallas County Schools.
Court documents state that Caraway “knew that the money he received from ELF Investments was actually money from Leonard.” He knew that the money — $390,000 — was to “secure his political influence due to his position as City of Dallas Council Member so he could further Leonard’s business interests in Dallas.”
Also explained in court documents, according to Caraway, the money and gifts that Leonard gave him were based, in part, on his support of FXS’s stop-arm-program with Dallas County Schools.
Cox said that Leonard and Swartwood “paid Sorrells and Caraway a combined total of more than $3.5 million in exchange for favorable official action related to Force Multiplier Solutions, helping Leonard and his company secure over $70 million in contracts and agreements with Dallas County Schools.”
Early on, Caraway told Leonard that he supported the stop-arm program and asked Leonard to make political contributions. Leonard made the contributions, according to the court document, because Caraway asked him to.
“Sorrells approved hundreds of purchase orders for camera equipment costing millions of dollars, most of which was never installed and sat unused in a warehouse,” Cox said. “He also entered into a $340,000 per month servicing agreement and a $25 million asset purchase licensing agreement.”
Caraway asked Leonard for money many times and cashed checks at liquor stores and pawn shops.
Now Caraway has resigned; having plead guilty to one corruption charge, and a tax count.
And he will be going to federal prison.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings released the following statement about Caraway’s resignation:
I learned this morning of Dwaine Caraway’s guilty plea and resignation, and I have not yet reviewed the public details of the case. Therefore, I will not be making any public comments today beyond this statement.
As we all now know, the corruption at Dallas County Schools extended beyond the confines of that now shuttered organization. As your mayor, I am saddened by what we learned today about the actions of one of my former colleagues. I am sad for the city, especially the citizens of District 4, and for Mr. Caraway’s friends, family and supporters.
Mr. Caraway championed much good in his time in public service, particularly for the youth of our city. I appreciate that he is admitting his crimes and sparing the city what could have been a drawn out legal battle.
More than 12,000 people work for the City of Dallas. Almost every one of them serves honorably and ethically — and never make the news. This city is so much bigger than any one politician who lost his way.