Arrest warrant issued for Seattle school scandal suspect

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 8, 2011 at 10:21 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 8 at 2:01 PM

SEATTLE – An arrest warrant has been issued for the man at the center of a financial scandal that shook up Seattle Public Schools this year, after he failed to show up for his arraignment Tuesday.

Silas Potter Jr. is charged with felony theft for allegedly bilking more than $250,000 from the district.

Potter is accused of stealing the money by submitting and paying bogus bills for services that were never delivered to the district through a program he managed for the school system. The program, the Regional Small Business Development Program, was supposed to help minority and women-owned business bid on school district construction projects.

Prosecutors say they last had contact with Potter in Florida in August.

"He was working at a furniture store in the state of Florida and we received information that he's left that job or simply stopped appearing," said Ian Goodhew, Deputy Chief of Staff, King County Prosecutor's Office.

A fugitive task force will now look for him.

"He's not going to be able to hide from them, they will find him," said prosecutor Scott Peterson.

David Anthony Johnson and Lorrie Kay Sorenson are also charged for their alleged roles in the scheme. They pleaded not guilty and were released without bail.

The scandal led to the Seattle school board firing Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson after a state audit found the district's small-business contracting program led by Potter provided little or no public benefit.

According to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, the three defendants funneled money through two corporations registered in the state, a non-profit called Grace of Mercy and a for-profit corporation called Emerald City Cleaning. Both Johnson and Sorenson worked for the companies.

Investigators discovered $168,000 of Seattle Public Schools money was funneled through Grace of Mercy and more than $83,000 was paid to Emerald City Cleaning "with Potter's approval and with no expectation of any work to be performed," said Satterberg.

Potter and Johnson are each charged with nine counts of theft and face a sentencing range of 33 to 43 months in prison. Sorenson is charged with four counts of theft and faces a 6 to 12 month sentence.
  
The school district has conducted its own investigation of Silas Potter Jr., and has hired an attorney to look into the feasibility of a lawsuit.

(The Associated Press and KING 5's Liza Javier and Travis Pittman contributed to this report.)
 

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