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Grand Jury Indicts Former DeKalb County School Superintendent Crawford Lewis

12:48 AM, May 27, 2010   |    comments
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Former DeKalb County School Superintendent Crawford Lewis (File Photo)

DEKALB COUNTY, GA -- Former DeKalb County School Superintendent Crawford Lewis has been indicted on racketeering charges as well as theft by a government employee and bribery.

Read the indictment here.

Lewis and three others are charged with cheating taxpayers out of millions of dollars by funneling construction contracts to certain contractors, using inside information.

The former school superintendent stepped down in April amidst the investigation that also led to a high profile search of his home and school headquarters office in February.

The school system's former chief operating officer, Patricia Pope (who now goes by Pat Reid), was also indicted, along with her ex-husband, an architect, Tony Pope and her former secretary Cointa Moody.

Arrest warrants were issued Wednesday to bring them in, and all four were booked into the DeKalb County jail by Wednesday night.

All four are expected to plead not guilty.

Patricia Pope's attorney, Manny Arora, blasted the District Attorney and the indictment, and said he looks forward to showing that his client never broke a single law.

There are seven counts in the indictment. 

All four defendants are charged with Counts 1 - 4, Racketeering.

Three of the defendants, Crawford Lewis, Patricia Pope and Cointa Moody, are charged with Count 5, Theft by a Government Employee.

Crawford Lewis and Patricia Pope are charged with Count 6, Bribery.

Patricia Pope is charged with Count 7, Falsifying Public Documents.

The accusations amount to a massive financial scandal in DeKalb County, with the defendants accused of ripping off taxpayers, and pocketing the money.

One relatively small and personal example: the indictment accuses Lewis, while he was superintendent, of using a county purchasing card to pay for his hotel during a personal vacation in the Bahamas.

Lewis and the others were, according to the indictment, running the school system as their own, personal, criminal enterprise, using their know-how to siphon off money, to try to live large and get rich, at the very time that the school board -- which, according to the District Attorney, had no knowledge of the scheme -- was scraping for every penny it could find for the children, facing a budget shortfall of more than $100 million dollars, and warning that a dozen or more schools will have to close as a result, on top of all the other cuts that the board has been been forced to make, so far.

"They used their positions and the resources of the school system to facilitate theft, fraud and obstruction," said District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming. "The state violations in this case include theft by taking, acts of theft, false writings and statements, fraudulent documents, forgery in the first degree, bribery, hindering a law enforcement officer, and tampering with evidence."

The indictment focuses on financial schemes that supposedly took place during four school system construction projects: Columbia High School, McNair Cluster Elementary, Mountain Industrial Center, and Arabia Mountain High School.

According to the indictment, Crawford Lewis and Patricia Pope arranged to funnel more than $2 million illegally to Pope's then husband, architect Tony Pope, and more money to others, during those construction projects -- projects that the school system legitimately needed, costing the system a total of $80 million.

How much could the school system have saved on those four construction projects if not for the fraud described in the indictment?

The DA said she doesn't know, yet.

"We can't quantify how much could have been saved," Fleming said. "In terms of the dollar amount, it is hard for us to assess, because it is our understanding that some payments are still on-going."

And, she said, the investigation is still on-going.

In the Columbia High School construction project, alone, the indictment accuses Crawford Lewis and Patricia Pope of approving $1.1 million in fraudulent payments.

Another example: In the Arabia Mountain High School project, the indictment accuses Patricia Pope of using her influence to get the school system to award a contract to a company where she used to work, even though that company's bid was higher than a competitor's bid.

The indictment says that, as a result of that rigged award, Crawford Lewis and Patricia Pope accepted bribes from the company that won the bid, such as $10,000 worth of tickets to the Masters golf tournament in 2008; Lewis and Pope never disclosed the gifts to the school board, in violation of board policy, according to the indictment.

The indictment also accuses Patricia and Tony Pope of accepting bribes from another company -- $3,400 in Falcon's tickets, $18,600 in Final Four tickets in 2007, and $920 in Fox Theater tickets.

The indictment accuses Patricia Pope's secretary, Cointa Moody, who was paid $60,000 a year, not only of being part of the Racketeering enterprise with the other three defendants, but also billing the school system for overtime she did not perform -- such as $42,000 in overtime pay during the 2008-2009 school year, when she was, instead, running personal errands for Patricia Pope.

 

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