A Sarasota man who allegedly defrauded charter schools in Pinellas, Hillsborough, and five other Florida counties was sentenced to two decades behind bars last week.
According to prosecutors, the 56-year-old man used a charter school management company to divert millions of tax dollars to friends and associates by purchasing furniture, computers, and a myriad of other school equipment at above-market prices from sham companies.
Per an investigation by a Tampa newspaper, reporters audited purchases made by the company in Pinellas County schools, allegedly noticing a pattern of inflated purchases. The newspaper said it found a significant number of transactions by the company that involved outfitting a single charter-school classroom for around triple the cost of the same or similar items sourced from the Pinellas County school district warehouse.
In addition, prosecutors say the man overstated enrollment estimates in order to secure more Federal funding, and sold school uniforms at a steep mark-up in order to reap an outsized profit. As a result, they say his own bank account swelled along with that of a co-conspirator who has already been convicted and sentenced for similar crimes.
Per school officials, the man’s ill-gotten gains were significant. Hillsborough County officials estimate he defrauded them of $339,000, while Pinellas County officials estimate his take to be in excess of $1 million.
The defendant was found guilty by an Escambia County jury of one count of racketeering and two counts of racketeering. Escambia County Circuit Judge Thomas Dannheisser sentenced him to 20 years in prison on Tuesday, along with assessing a fine of $5 million, payable to the state. He remains in the Escambia County Jail as he awaits placement in a state prison.
The Law Offices of Bjorn Brunvand have been representing people charged with capital murder, felony drug charges, drunk driving, government fraud, and white-collar crimes for over a quarter century. Contact our office today to discuss your Tampa Bay-area state or federal charges.