Dallas County

Former Dallas County Schools Superintendent Admits Taking More Than $3 Million in Bribes

Former Dallas County Schools Superintendent Rick Sorrells faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud during his time at the school bus service from 2011-16. Sorrells took more than $3 million in cash and other assets from a company that stocked DCS with cameras for a program that ticketed drivers for illegally passing stopped buses.

Sorrells, whose attorney did not immediately return a request for comment, signed the district up for more than $70 million in contracts with Force Multiplier Solutions, a now defunct Louisiana company, to provide the cameras, which were supposed to generate a big stream of revenue for the district.

The money didn't materialize — thanks in part to judges throwing out many of the tickets issued based on evidence from the cameras — and the district was stuck with the bill. Amid the fallout from the failed camera program and a series of managerial missteps, Dallas County voters approved dissolving DCS in November.

According to federal court documents, Sorrells began receiving payments from a company selling the district cameras in 2010. (Force Multiplier Solutions isn't mentioned in the indictment by name, but it's the only company that sold stop-arm cameras to DCS, according to KXAS-TV.)

After DCS agreed to buy between 100 and 150 cameras from Force Multiplier Solutions in 2010, the company began to funnel cash and other benefits to Sorrells through a series of shell companies set up by the superintendent.

Eventually, the company began paying Sorrells' credit card bills and other debts in order to avoid direct cash payments, according to Sorrells' plea agreement. Slater Swartwood Sr., the former owner of Force Multiplier Solutions, pleaded guilty in 2017 to federal money laundering charges related to the bribes paid to Sorrells.

As part of his deal, Sorrells is also required to return property obtained via the bribes to the feds, including about $12,000 in cash, a 2014 Maserati, a 2012 Porsche, about $50,000 in jewelry purchased from the Windsor Auction House and a custom-made 14-carat gold bracelet featuring "51 princess-cut diamonds."
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young