In Deion Sanders's Quest for a Charter School, the Whistleblower Turns it Up to 11
Lawrence Smith has what you might call a bit of a beef with Cowboys great Deion Sanders. And he just took that beef -- what's that phrase? Ah yes. Priiiime tiiiime.
A few years back, Smith went into business with Sanders and a businessman named D.L. Wallace on a high-school recruiting directory called PrimeTime Player Pages. The book fell apart, and Smith and his fellow investors sued Sanders and Wallace.
That case is still pending, but it's another pending matter that's worked Smith into a letter-writing frenzy in recent months: PrimePrep Academy, a charter school founded by Wallace and Sanders, with plans for campuses in Fort Worth and Oak Cliff. Smith has written two dozen letters to the Texas Education Agency, tipping the agency to various holes in the PrimePrep plan. And judging by the letter that just landed in the in-box of TEA's lawyer and several other officials this morning, the jihad has just begun.
The letter is below, and it's a fun display of a citizen going full-tilt against the government. It's a bit uneven at times, and Smith, with whom I've spoken on the phone, can sometimes see conspiracy where there likely isn't one. But he's no kook. Multiple allegations he's leveled against PrimePrep were quickly proven true. For instance:
In the charter-school application, PrimePrep included a lease-purchase agreement with a company called Pinnacle Commercial Property Group for a building that would house the Fort Worth campus. The school would pay the company as much as $10,000 a month for use of the building. But, as Smith pointed out in emails to TEA, Pinnacle Commercial Property Group is owned by Wallace. He was basically trying to lease the building to himself, to profit off of his nonprofit.
Sometime after Smith's letters, the connection showed up in the Austin American-Statesman, and TEA shut down the lease agreement.
It was also Smith who raised questions about the corporate support Sanders claimed to have. Former Observer-er Patrick Michels, now at the Texas Observer, shredded those claims in December. They'd lied about having corporate support, and they got caught. And yet somehow, they're still in line to open multiple schools.
There's been more, and there will be more, and eventually TEA will have to step up and sink this thing if it manages to stay afloat on its own. With Smith and his whistle around, that's starting to seem unlikely.
Here's the letter Smith sent this morning:
Karen L. Johnson Assistant Counsel TEALegal
On January 16, 2011, I requested through Texas Education Agency PIR Coordinator a copy of Uplift Fort Worth (Prime Prep Academy) approved 16 Generation Application and contingency documents. It was my understanding Uplift Fort Worth (Prime Prep Academy) was issued a County District Number. I received this information on January 24, 2011. Before I comment on my expected problems with this application and our recent discoveries about Uplift Fort Worth and it's founder, D.L. Wallace, I would like to go back to our grievance that we presented to the TEA regarding this application from the beginning. Below, I have chronicled every email that I sent you, Paula Myers, Commissioner Robert Scott and Charter School Administrator Mary Perry. In each of these emails, I provided you with documented proof that we believe a crime was being committed on the State of Texas and the taxpayers by Uplift Fort Worth, D.L. Wallace, Deion Sanders and Frederick R. Mays. I've emailed the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and its attorneys more than 23 times warning you of an impending con being perpetrated, but you have refused to even investigate my allegations. Articles were written by Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Austin Statesman, Texas Independent, and Texas Observer highlighting the false, misleading, erroneous and fraudulent information given to the TEA by Uplift Fort Worth President Damien Lamarc Wallace, Deion Sanders and Frederick R. Mays. Even before the contingency process was approved, you were warned. We informed you that we had other information regarding these con men.
You never contacted me to garner more information on these individuals. I stated to you that I was a taxpayer and do not wish to see taxpayers monies being stolen or misused. I also stated that I and others are victims of Mr. Wallace and Mr. Sanders' past schemes and fraud. I informed you that a con game is being run by D.L. Wallace, Frederick R. Mays and Deion Sanders. I would have thought that the TEA would be appreciative that a private citizen was giving its agency relevant information to protect the people's money. To the contrary, the TEA was determined and hell bent on protecting Deion Sanders' Star Power. I was told by an individual who was at Mr. Sanders' presentation to the TEA back in August of 2011, that some board members sought him out for autographs and pictures. Thet seened to be star-struck. Even SBOE Boardmember David Bradley (R-Beaumont) stated to the Beaumont Enterprise newspaper written on August 31, 2011 that:
"He assembled a first class management team and their presentation was flawless," SBOE member David Bradley, R-Beaumont, said. "I asked if he had first reached out to the local (independent school district) regarding concerns with local performance and he said once the picture-taking was over, his pleas were ignored." Bradley expects the board to approve Sanders' application in two weeks.
Once the picture-taking was over? Bradley stated he expects board approval for Sanders. Really? Even before the vote? Mr. Bradley violated TEA bylaws regarding charters school approval. He cannot comment on any 16 Generation applicant approval prior to that approval. This created a bias that was so obvious. Did he and other board members take pictures with the other applicants? Why didn't he comment about approval for the 16 Generation Applications that were denied by the board? On October 20, 2011, the ONLY return email I received from you ( Karen L. Johnson) stated; "The commissioner of education has forwarded your meeting request, emails, and other documentation to my office and asked that I respond to you. Please be advised that while the commissioner appreciates your efforts in this matter, he cannot meet with you or your attorney at this time".
You also stated, "Please be advised that action by the commissioner of education based on the information and allegations that you provided would be premature at this time. The State Board of Education (SBOE) has awarded a charter to Uplift Fort Worth CDC contingent on it correcting all the contingencies and/or deficiencies that were placed on the charter holder during the application review. This has not yet occurred so the charter contract has not yet been executed". This full letter from Ms. Johnson is in a PDF attachment with this email.
Let's go to the approved contingency 16 Generation Charter application for Uplift Fort Worth (Prime Prep Academy). On the first page of this application, Uplift Fort Worth Chairperson Damien Lamarc Wallace lists the address for Uplift Fort Worth as P.O. Box 535426 Grand Prairie, Texas 76053. On January 9, 2012, a certified letter from Tarrant County District 342nd Court addressed to Damien Lamarc Wallace was returned marked "UNCLAIMED". This is the same P.O. Box listed for Uplift Fort Worth in the application. I visited the Post Office (505 Fountain Parkway, Grand Prairie, Texas) where this P.O. Box is located. Postal Clerk Teresa Lagaspi stated Mr. Wallace was informed with a second notice of a letter from Tarrant County Court. She also spoke to him personally but he never signed for this letter. This letter contained a civil citation for Mr. Wallace. Ms. Lagaspi expressed astonishment at the number of businesses that are being run from this P.O. Box. We have determined that Mr. Wallace also had/has a P.O. Box 535184 at this same location. Upon further investigation, we've discovered that Mr. Wallace has over five shell companies including Uplift Fort Worth CDC, 501C3 operating from P.O. Box 535426. We also discovered that Mr. Wallace operates/operated three shell companies from P.O. Box 535184. Both of these mail boxes are at this same location. All told, Mr. Wallace runs/ran eight shells companies and one 501c3 from these mail boxes. And amazingly, none of these businesses have a physical address!
These mailboxes are suspected to have been used to sell illegal securities and to commit fraud, and deception. Using P.O. Boxes to garner state and federal monies on fraudulent basis constitutes mail fraud, which is a federal crime! Since the Texas Education Agency refused to contact authorities regarding Damien Lamarc Wallace's, Deion Sanders' and Frederick R. Mays' criminal behavior, we have decided to move forward to do it for you.
Today, we filed a complaint with U.S. Postal Office of Inspector General. We also filed a complaint with Attorney General of Texas Consumer Protection Division for Charities and Non-Profits. Please view the attached PDF complaint forms for both of these agencies, also view the attached PDF documents with every shell company listed. We are asking the state and federal authorities to not only prosecute the individuals in question, but also anyone at the Texas Education Agency (staff members, managers, and attorneys) who knowingly concealed fraudulent information given by D.L. Wallace, Deion Sanders and Frederick R. Mays to garner this charter contingency approval. This information will also be disseminated for public consumption. A copy of this email will be sent to all SBOE Boardmembers, The U.S. Postal Inspector, Texas State Securities Board Assistant Director of Enforcement Jay Oman, Department of Education Inspector General, Commissioner Robert Scott, Director of Charter School Administration Mary Perry, TEALegal Services and Attorney Don R. Stewart.
Remember, the TEA was given fraudulent information regarding Pinnacle Commercial Property Group. As you recall, F. R. Mays was listed as the President and CEO of this company. Both he and Mr. Wallace signed their names to this as fact. This company also used P.O.Box 535426. The Texas Education Agency later found out (thanks to my email and a news article by a local reporter) that in fact Mr. Wallace was the true owner and founder of Pinnacle Commercial Property Group. We also discovered that F.R. Mays is actually Bishop Frederick R. Mays, the pastor and owner of Charity Church. This is a supposed 'Man of God' who deliberately lied to get money. The TEA forced these applicants to remove this company's sweetheart deal from the application, but didn't turn this fraudulent finding over to authorities as requested. To the contrary, they approved Uplift Fort Worth's (Prime Prep Academy) charter contingency, even after they were caught lying and attempting to defraud. The Uplift Fort Worth application also listed fraudulent information regarding corporate sponsors who allegedly pledged to donate seed money for the charter school (thanks again to an email from me, this was discovered). An article in The Texas Independent newspaper revealed that none of these supposedly corporate sponsors had ever heard of Prime Prep Academy, nor had given authorization to use their company's name and trademark logos. In one case, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Inc, Mr. Wallace even listed the contact as Trevor Armstrong.
It was later revealed that Mr. Armstrong left the company over 4 years ago. This man name was used without his knowledge. Again, this was an outright lie and a deliberate attempt to defraud the State of Texas (TEA). The TEA responded with a comment from spokesman Debbie Ratcliffe saying "Prime Prep's lists of sponsors doesn't matter much to their application. Even if a charter applicant says they have pledges for land or services from various corporations or entities, we don't let them count that as revenue unless they have a signed letter from the donor." Basically, the TEA covered and excused their lie. The 16 Generation Application specifically ask the question "Upon approval of charter school what companies pledge to donate what amount". Mr. Wallace even notated in the application that Pinnacle Commercial Property Group's President F. R. Mays was pledging $100,000.00. This was laughable. Once again, it was acknowledged by Texas Independent newspaper and by the TEA later that Mr. Wallace was indeed the owner of Pinnacle Commercial Property Group and not Mr. Mays. A clever scheme and clearly a fraud. Removing this information from the application will not take away from the fact that they lied in an attempt to defraud. It will certainly not make it go away. Also, according to the news article written by a Texas Observer newspaper article, "the other applicants were grilled about donations and pledges." This was clearly biasd and a cover-up to conceal fraudulent information given by Uplift Fort Worth Chairperson Damien Lamarc Wallace and Deion Sanders. Again the TEA refused to contact the authorities or punish their deceit in any way. To the contrary, they were rewarded with approval.
Listen, there is an education crises in our country as well as our state. Teachers are being laid off and school districts are greatly underfunded. Over 150 school districts are suing the State of Texas at this moment for this very reason. We cannot afford to risk money on individuals who have no experience in teaching children (neither Mr. Wallace or Mr. Sanders have a college degree or experience in education) or questionable character. Apparently the TEA isn't aware of Mr. Sanders' reckless behavior on the news regarding his divorce. Is this who we want educating our kids? I wouldn't let this man or Mr. Wallace near my grandkids.
As a reminder, following is a list of all of my emails to the TEA:
On October 13, 2011 received email from Paula Myers, Subject: "Request a Meeting or call with Commissioner Robert Scott" (Meeting request document attached)
On October 20, 2011, received email from TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "TEALegal" (TEA protocol document attached)
On October 20, 2011, called TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson to discuss Uplift Fort Worth (Prime Prep Academy) charter approval.
On October 20, 2011, replied to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson email, Subject: "TEALegal" (Uplift Forth Worth information attached with email)
On October 22, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "The full picture of Uplift Forth Worth and Prime Prep Academy Part 2" (Uplift Forth Worth information attached with email)
On October 26, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "The full picture of Uplift Forth Worth and Prime Prep Academy" (Uplift Forth Worth information attached with email)
On October 27, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "D.L. Wallace changes website and more DBA's uncovered" (Uplift Forth Worth information attached with email)
On October 28, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "Meeting with Life School Brent Wilson and other info"
On November 2, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "More Significant information on D.L. Wallace and F.R. Mays" (Uplift Forth Worth, D.L. Wallace and F.R. Mays information attached with email)
On November 4, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "Complaint file with State Auditor's Office" (Complaint form against Uplift Forth Worth attached with email)
On November 7, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "F.R. Mays property and other info" (Fredrick R. Mays information attached with email)
On November 8, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "Prime Prep Academy Corporate Sponsors" (Prime Prep Academy Corporate Sponsors information attached with email)
On November 11, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "The Big Picture"
On November 12, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "D.L. Wallace insolvent Business, Illegal Securities, and Former Client Lawsuit" (D.L. Wallace past Business information attached with email)
On November 14, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "D.L. Wallace Gratuitous Option and Investor Buyback Option" (D.L. Wallace past Business information attached with email)
On November 17, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "Deion Sanders and D.L. Wallace exposed, Texas Penal Code, Federal law and complaint attached"
On November 20, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "Important information regarding Uplift Forth Worth and Prime Prep Academy application"
On November 21, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "U.S. Department of Education (Whistleblower) Fraud Complaint Form and Hotline"
On November 23, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "More Deion Sanders Drama (Charter School)
On November 27, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "NAACP #6069 Dallas President Juanita Wallace will call you Monday"
On December 6, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "Deion Sanders Arrogant Star Power". (Deion Sanders and Uplift Worth information attached with email)
On December 7, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "How to Catch a Conman like D.L. Wallace".
On December 20, 2011, sent email to TEA Assistant Legal Counsel Karen L. Johnson, Subject: "Deion Sanders motive for Prime Prep Charter School"
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