3 charged with stealing $250,000 from Seattle Public Schools

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by Associated Press and LIZA JAVIER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on October 25, 2011 at 6:04 AM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 25 at 1:28 PM

SEATTLE -- As the KING 5 Investigators broke last week, criminal charges have now been filed in the financial scandal that shook up Seattle Public Schools earlier this year. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has charged former Seattle schools employee Silas Potter Jr. with felony theft for bilking more than $250,000 from the district.

Potter allegedly stole 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.

Two other defendants - David Anthony Johnson and Lorrie Kay Sorenson - were also charged for their role in the scheme, said Satterberg.

"Together with two accomplices, Silas Potter funneled more than $250,000 of program money through two corporations and helped himself to cash withdrawals from those two entities," said Satterberg.

The investigation centered on the former school district employee, who has been accused of using dummy companies to bill the district for nonexistent work.

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 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.

"When interviewed in Tampa, Florida, in August, Silas Potter confirmed much of what investigators discovered," said Satterberg.

Potter and Johnson were each charged with nine counts of theft. Sorenson was charged with four counts of theft. If charged, Potter and Johnson face a sentence range of 33 to 43 months in prison. Sorenson's range is 6 to 12 months.

The prosecutor said the 10-month investigation into the district's small business development program found no evidence of involvement by other district employees.
  
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.

All three defendants are scheduled for arraignment November 8.

 

 

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