For the First Time, The Man Who Blew the Whistle in DISD E-Rate Scandal Talks
It ws Ruben Bohuchot's passion for Post Yachts, like the one seen here, that ultimately let to his downfall at DISD.
Danny Cain does not and never has worked for the Dallas Independent School District. He does not and never has worked for Hewlett Packard. And yet yesterday, two federal agencies announced that he was awarded a chunk of HP's $16.25-million settlement over wrongdoing at the district having to do with a federally funded program that involved an assistant superintendent named Ruben Bohuchot, a Houston-based computer reseller named Frankie Wong, a $120-million contract, two six-figure yachts and, in time, lengthy stays in the federal pen for those who perpetrated the scheme.
Till now, Cain has been unable to talk about the case -- a sealed federal suit, filed by Cain and his sister Pam Tingley under the False Claims Act, forced him to keep quiet. But the suit was unsealed last week; the second amended complaint, filed in March 2009, follows after the jump, in which the government details exactly how the two came to know about Bohucot and Franiie Wong's scheme. This morning I spoke with Cain about how he got involved and why he came forward.
The answer, he says, is simple: "Here were all these people stealing money from school kids -- and they were using my house for an illegal enterprise."
What follows is Danny Cain's story.
Danny Cain didn't work for DISD. But his cousin Chuck Spivey did. Matter of fact, Spivey worked for Bohuchot -- a district assistant superintendent and chief technology officer, which made him the man in charge of the district's computer contracts. You wanted to do bidness with the district, you went through Ruben Bohuchot.
One day in the fall of 2002, Bohuchot told Spivey that he and some dude from Houston named Frankie Wong were going in on a big ol' boat together -- a 46-foot Post Yacht dubbed the Sir Veza. It was worth more than $300,000. Spivey knew just the perfect folks to work that sucker: His cousin Pam -- Danny Cain's sister -- and her husband, Dan Tingley. Dan would captain; Pam would serve as first mate -- hostess, in other words.
Dan Tingley told Danny Cain all about it. Told his brother-in-law he'd landed "a really sweet gig" captaining a boat owned, in part, by a DISD assistant super named Ruben Bohuchot. Cain, of course, knew who the guy was because of cousin Chuck. He also knew a DISD employee couldn't afford that, not on an annual $140,000 salary.
Cain told his brother-in-law that working for those guys would be a big mistake. "This is going to blow up in your face," he said. Tingley took the gig anyway -- it paid $40,000 a year, after all. Pam took the hostessing job.
Not long after that, Cain started getting bizarre mail at the house. Like: the Coast Guard certification for the Sir Veza and the boat's registration papers. Then he started getting mail addressed to Dan Tingley, Bohuchot and Wong, then reselling computers for Micro Systems Engineering. At which point, Cain says, he realized exactly what was up.
And he was furious: "Here were all these people stealing money from school kids -- and they were using my house for an illegal enterprise," he says. "I didn't care if it was my brother-in-law and sister."
And so he went looking for someone to investigate the wrongdoing at DISD. But no one would listen.
"At that point I went to the state Attorney General's Office, and they said they didn't deal with things like that," Cain tells Unfair Park. "They said I should go to the Travis County District Attorney, which deals with public corruption. They said they didn't deal with that. I told the Dallas County district attorney. They said, 'What do you want us to do about it?' They said they'd send me a questionnaire. They never did. I called the FBI at least three times, and they never returned my call."
At which point he reached out to the media, ready to spill everything he knew: Bohuchot had given Wong, doing the bidding of Hewlett Packard, inside info that helped land a $120-million contract with the DISD involving the federally funded E-Rate program, which is intended to give schools Internet access. The two of them, and plenty others (including William Coleman, a former DISD deputy superintendent who later became interim school superintendent in Detroit and was also indicted), lived it up on the feds' and district's dime -- buying not only the Sir Veza but the far more expensive Sir Veza II, which ran around $800,000. There were fishing trips to Key West. Super Bowl tickets. Lavish wines-and-dines. All paid for by Wong. All going to Bohuchot.
It took Pete Slover at The Dallas Morning News all of two hours to return his call. Slover and Kent Fischer, both no longer at the paper, broke the case wide open when others ignored Cain.
"I told [Slover] everything I knew," Cain said. "He worked the story. At one point, he found out that the Sir Veza and group of people were all over Florida for a fishing tournament. Slover's at a bar at the marina where it's going on, and he called me and asked, 'What does Tingley look like?' I told him. Dan was sitting at the bar. Dan was reluctant to talk to him. He got my sister involved -- they [the couple] later separated -- but Dan was paid a contractual amount and expected Pam to work underneath that contract. A boat that size needs a captain and first mate. She felt bad about that." So much so she would join her brother in sinking Bohuchot and Wong's scheme.
After Slover's first story appeared in the paper, Cain says, an FBI agent finally called him back.
"I said, 'I tried to get a hold of you guys last fall,'" Cain recounted this morning. "The agent said 'Yes, we have record of that, we're sorry we dropped the ball.'"
FBI agents began their interviews, and a federal grand jury was convened. And Bohuchot and Wong were convicted of bribe-taking and money-laundering in July 2008.
In time, Dan and his sister filed a writ that would allow them to get a share of the government's settlement with those implicated in the scheme. They met with an alphabet's soup worth of federal agencies -- from the Department of Justice to the Department of Education to the FCC to the IRS. Eventually the government intervened on Dan and Pam's behalf, and the two were informed of Hewlett Packard's desire to settle the feds' claims about a month ago.
HP's agreed to pay $16.25 million into the E-Rate program, with $1,424,969 of that going to the whistle-blowers, Dan Cain and Pamela Tingley. Cain said much of his chunk will go to paying attorneys.
Besides, he said this morning, "I felt vindicated when Bohuchot and Wong were convicted. The civil trial had always been an afterthought. These people were stealing money from schoolkids and thinking they could use my house as a location to continue their enterprise. I'm very relieved it's over. There's no reason not to be. But to be honest, I don't feel rewarded by the civil process. I just glad it's over."Cain and Tingley v Bohuchot and Wong Et Al