A top Democrat official in the city of Dallas, Texas, was forced to resign in disgrace after he pleaded guilty on Thursday to corruption charges stemming from a scheme that involved more than $450,000 in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for official actions on behalf of a local businessman, according to Fox News.
Dallas City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and tax evasion, prompting the second highest ranked elected official in the city to resign his position as a council member and interim mayor.
Conspiracy Runs Deep
A news release from the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, Erin Nealy Cox, detailed the scheme between Caraway and Louisiana businessman Robert Leonard, who also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.
Court documents showed that Leonard had paid Caraway more than $450,000 in bribes and kickbacks via “a phony consulting agreement, luxury suits, fully funded trips, gambling money, repayment of personal debt, checks and cash.”
In exchange, Caraway had promised Leonard he would provide “favorable official actions” such as “key votes” to benefit Leonard’s business interests — he had ties to a company known as Force Multiplier Solutions that produced stop-arm cameras for school buses.
The illicit payments had been disguised and funneled through an associate of Leonard, Slater Swartwood Sr., that appeared to be “consulting fees” and “loans” through a shell company known as ELF Investments. Some of the payments received by Caraway came in the form of checks that he cashed at local pawnshops and liquor stores.
The investigation, which included the FBI and IRS, also revealed that Caraway had evaded taxes by failing to report much of that illicit “income” and owed the IRS tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes.
Swartwood had pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme earlier in the year, as had former Dallas County Schools Superintendent Rick Sorrells, who allegedly received more than $3 million in bribes and kickbacks — including payments toward his credit card and student loan debts — as part of the scheme.
“The pleas today represent the meticulous and tireless efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, and the dedicated prosecutors of our office,” stated U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox on Thursday.
“These cases demonstrate our continued resolve to uncover corruption at the highest levels — the citizens of Dallas deserve honest government,” she added.
Indeed they do. Hopefully the uncovering of this massive bribery scheme involving top elected officials in Dallas will discourage others from thinking they can illicitly trade their position of power for unearned benefits and insider deals that most taxpayers and voters would never approve of.
It remains to be seen how long Caraway will end up serving time in prison, but one thing is fairly certain — his career as a politician is pretty much done forever.