Businessman gets 7 years in school bus cameras scandal

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Robert Leonard Jr., 71, previously found guilty of paying bribes to Dallas school and city officials to secure contracts to put security cameras on buses, received a seven-year prison sentence from a federal judge Wednesday, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Leonard’s company, Force Multiplier Solutions, signed a contract with Dallas County Schools in 2010 for the cameras, a deal that earned the company and Leonard $70 million. He pleaded guilty last year to funneling more than $3.5 million to officials to get that contract.

Leonard’s business associate Slater Swartwood has also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

The cameras were designed to catch drivers violating state law by passing by the stop sign that extends while children are entering or exiting the buses. The footage can be used to ticket those drivers, with schools getting a cut of the revenue. But that required the Dallas City Council to give approval to write the tickets within city limits.

Prosecutors said Leonard bribed city council member Dwaine Caraway for help on that front, also giving out tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to other elected city officials, the newspaper reported.

As part of its deal with Leonard, the Dallas County Schools bus agency bought thousands of additional cameras to sell to other school districts in the state, but lost money on the purchases and put the system near bankruptcy, the News reported.

Caraway got 56 months in prison for his involvement, while former Dallas County Schools board president Larry Duncan was sentenced last month to six months of home confinement and three years probation.

Former Dallas County Schools superintendent Rick Sorrells pleaded guilty to wire fraud and awaits sentencing, the newspaper reported.

On Wednesday, federal judge Barbara Lynn ordered Leonard and Sorrells to pay $125 million in restitution although she admitted it was unlikely the money would ever be repaid.

“You had a good idea, but the execution and what happened afterward makes that good idea pale by comparison. This is a shameful episode in our community,” Lynn told Leonard during the sentencing hearing, according to the News.

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