Former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges of receiving more than $450,000 in bribes and kickbacks.
Caraway submitted his resignation on Wednesday.
“I am truly sorry that I must end my career as an elected official because I betrayed the public’s trust that I worked so very hard to earn,” Caraway said in his resignation letter.
Caraway entered his plea Thursday morning before U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn on charges of tax evasion and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
“As your mayor, I am saddened by what we learned today about the actions of one of my former colleagues,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said in a Tweet. “I am sad for the city, especially the citizens of District 4, and for Mr. Caraway’s friends, family and supporters.”
The payments were taken from 2011 to 2017 from Robert Carl Leonard Jr., the president of Force Multiplier Solutions (FXS), a technology company that puts cameras on school buses, according to federal court documents.
Leonard also pleaded guilty Thursday before Lynn to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
“An entire public entity ... was destroyed in the wake of this scandal,” U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox said in a news release. “These cases demonstrate our continued resolve to uncover corruption at the highest levels — the citizens of Dallas deserve honest government.”
Cox said the investigation is ongoing and could implicate more public officials.
The payments were in exchange for favorable official action related to FXS’s program in the Dallas County schools and Leonard’s efforts to develop and profit from low-income housing, federal agents said.
The payments came in the form of luxury suites, fully funded trips, gambling money, checks and cash. Leonard also covered Caraway’s home security costs, a campaign bus and relatives’ funeral expenses.
Part of the reason the investigation extended into August 2018 and is ongoing is that the conspirators went to great lengths to conceal their activities, Cox said. At times, Leonard would pay Caraway in checks that he would cash at liquor stores and pawn shops, she said.
In one instance, Caraway received a $5,000 check with the word “Loan” written on the byline, which he cashed at a liquor store, according to federal court documents.
Caraway submitted his resignation letter on Wednesday.
“It is time to remove the dark cloud that my actions have brought upon our city,” Caraway said in the letter. “I will not allow a prolonged legal battle to become a distraction for our citizens or my colleagues on the council.”
Leonard also admitted to paying Rick Sorrells, former Dallas County school superintendent, more than $3 million in bribes and kickbacks. Those payments included $200,000 toward Sorrells’ credit card and student loan debt through a bank account, federal agents said.
Sorrells has pleaded guilty to a federal charge for his involvement in the case. He is awaiting sentencing on Sept. 14.
Another conspirator who has already pleaded guilty is Leonard business associate Slater Washburn Swartwood Sr., of Louisiana. Swartwood helped Leonard mask his payments to Caraway and Sorrells through his shell company, ELF investments, authorities said.
Those were characterized as consulting fees or loans, authorities said.
Leonard faces up to 10 years in prison, Cox said, while Caraway faces up to 10 years but has been recommended for seven years, Cox said.