Middleman in Dallas Money Laundering Scheme Sent to Prison - Texas Scorecard

UPDATED September 25, 2019.

Another conspirator in what may be “the largest domestic public corruption case in history” is headed to prison for helping bilk Dallas County taxpayers out of millions.

A federal judge sentenced Slater Swartwood Sr. last week to 18 months in prison for his role in the bribery and money laundering scandal that toppled school bus agency Dallas County Schools and cost county taxpayers over $100 million.

Swartwood pleaded guilty in 2017 to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Swartwood’s former business associate and three crooked ex-public officials have also admitted guilt in the case.

The conspiracy involved a school bus stop-arm camera ticketing scheme hatched in 2009 by DCS officials and camera vendor Force Multiplier Solutions that required approval by Dallas City Council.

Swartwood served as a middleman, helping Force Multiplier CEO Robert Leonard funnel nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks to public officials in exchange for over $70 million in camera purchases and related contracts with DCS and city approval to issue tickets.

Promised ticket revenue failed to materialize—hundreds of the purchased cameras were never even installed on school buses—and the failed scheme plunged the taxpayer-subsidized agency deep into debt. Swartwood also brokered questionable real estate deals for the cash-strapped agency in an attempt to cover losses tied to the scheme.

Years of corruption and mismanagement pushed DCS to the brink of financial collapse. By May 2017, the agency had racked up $130 million in debt.

In November 2017, Dallas County residents voted to shut down the scandal-plagued bus agency. But millions in debt piled up by corrupt officials under the noses of inept bureaucrats remained, forcing local property taxpayers to keep bearing the cost of a 1 cent ad valorem tax until the defunct agency’s obligations are settled.

Swartwood was the first conspirator to strike a plea deal. He provided details about the bribery and money laundering scheme that helped federal prosecutors indict Leonard, former DCS Superintendent Rick Sorrells, ex-DCS board president Larry Duncan, and former Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway.

All pleaded guilty to federal charges in exchange for reduced sentences.

Slater Swartwood Sr., associate of Robert Leonard
Status: Guilty – in prison
Crime: Conspiracy to commit money laundering – funneled bribes from Leonard to public officials
Sentence: 18 months in prison

Robert Leonard, CEO of school bus camera vendor Force Multiplier Solutions
Status: Guilty – in prison
Crime: Conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud – paid $4 million in bribes and kickbacks to public officials
Sentence: 7 years in prison, $125 million restitution (with co-conspirators Sorrells and Caraway)

Dwaine Caraway, former Dallas City Council member and mayor pro tem
Status: Guilty – in prison
Crime: Conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, tax evasion – accepted $450,000 in bribes and kickbacks from Leonard
Sentence: 56 months in federal prison, $500,000 restitution

Larry Duncan, former Dallas County Schools board president
Status: Guilty – under house arrest
Crime: Tax evasion – accepted $250,000 in phony campaign contributions from Leonard
Sentence: 6 months’ house arrest, 3 years’ probation, repayment of $45,000 in back taxes and interest, community service

Rick Sorrells, former superintendent of Dallas County Schools
Status: Guilty – in prison
Crime: Conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud – accepted $3 million in bribes and kickbacks from Leonard
Sentence: 7 years in prison, $125 million restitution (with co-conspirators Leonard and Caraway)