Two former Dallas school district officials, including one who later served as superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools, are accused of taking bribes from a businessman whose company was awarded $39 million in technology contracts in 2002 and 2003, according to a federal indictment unsealed May 29.
Prosecutors allege William Frederick Coleman III, the district’s former deputy superintendent and chief operating officer, and former chief technology officer Ruben B. Bohuchot took kickbacks and helped Micro Systems Engineering Inc. of Houston win the contracts.
Coleman, Bohuchot, and Micro Systems co-owner and president Frankie Logyang Wong face charges of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery through a program receiving federal funds, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Bohuchot, 59, and Wong, 46, pleaded not guilty in federal court May 29 and were released under travel restrictions pending trial. Coleman, 52, who was fired from his post as Detroit’s superintendent in March, turned himself in to federal authorities in Dallas on May 31.
Bertram Marks, Coleman’s attorney in the Detroit area, strongly denied the allegations and said his client planned to plead not guilty.
“It’s just unthinkable that a man with his integrity would be accused of anything, let alone indicted,” Marks said.
McNeil and Bohuchot’s attorney, Mike Gibson, characterized their clients as victims, saying investigators felt pressured to return indictments to justify the expense of a three-year investigation.
Prosecutors allege Coleman was a go-between for Wong and Bohuchot, who was in charge of technology contracts for the Dallas Independent School District. The three discussed inside information on a $4 million contract to provide computers to the district in May 2002, before bids went out for the contract, the indictment states.
The company in 2003 was awarded a $35 million contract to provide telecommunications and internet services through the federal e-Rate program.
Authorities contend Wong and Coleman created shell companies to conceal payments from Micro Systems to Bohuchot. The company bought a $300,000 yacht that Bohuchot named the Sir Veza II, according to the indictment.
Gibson said Bohuchot did not commit any crimes and is being prosecuted because of his friendship with Wong.
“It is incredible to think it is a crime to go to a game or take a dinner or a trip and be with somebody who may have some business,” Gibson said.
Coleman went on to become the superintendent of Detroit Public Schools from 2005 until he was replaced in March.
Last fall, he told the Detroit Free Press that he urged a company interested in school contracts there to get consulting help from Bohuchot, even though he knew that Bohuchot was under federal investigation in Dallas. The contract linked to the company was canceled, even though the company’s owner said he did not hire Bohuchot.
Bohuchot, who lives in Dallas, left the district in November 2005 after reaching a settlement, interim district spokesman Jon Dahlander said. He said the district had moved to fire Bohuchot but wouldn’t disclose why.
As eSchool News reported in 2005, Bohuchot was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into whether he broke any rules with his frequent use of the yacht owned by Micro Systems. At the time, Micro Systems was listed as the recipient of more than 96 percent of the $369 million in e-Rate funding the district had applied for since 2003, though district officials said the company was the lead partner in a consortium of vendors who split the funding. Bohuchot told the Dallas Morning News his use of the yacht did not influence the district’s bidding process, even though he wrote the specifications for jobs and negotiated the final terms after contracts were awarded.
Micro Systems’ Wong was a friend of his, Bohuchot said, adding that vendors on all Dallas Independent School District computer contracts worth more than $50,000 were chosen by a committee over which he had no influence. (See “Questionable tech dealings sink school execs,” http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showstory.cfm?ArticleID=5840.)
Dallas Independent School District
Detroit Public Schools
eSN Online: “Feds turn up heat on school tech buyers, vendors” (August 2006)
eSN Online: “Dubious dealings damage ed tech” (August 2006)