Calling his actions an “egregious violation of public trust,” a federal judge handed a former Skiatook Public Schools superintendent a 12-month, 1-day, prison sentence Thursday for being convicted of filing false federal income tax returns and accepting bribes.
U.S. District Judge Claire V. Eagan ordered the term for Gary Johnson, 57, who, along with co-defendant Rick Enos, pleaded guilty in October to one count of conspiring to “defraud the United States and to corruptly solicit, accept, give and offer things of value,” from May 2004 to July 2010, records show.
Johnson, who also must serve a three-year probation following his release, is scheduled to surrender by noon March 20 to authorities at El Reno’s Federal Correctional Institution, which has camps for medium-security and minimum-security male inmates.
The one-day portion of the prison term will allow Johnson to receive “credit for good time,” meaning he likely will be incarerated for about 10 months, Assistant U.S. Attorney Trent Shores said.
Rob Nigh, Johnson’s attorney, declined comment as he was leaving the courtroom. Enos, 60, wasn’t sentenced Thursday.
Before Eagan meted out the sentence, Johnson apologized to the school district and its patrons.
“I truly am sorry,” he said. “I want to do the right thing.”
Johnson said he hoped the school district could eventually could forgive him. Alluding to probation as a federal punishment, he also asked that the court allow him “not to be an additional burden to society.”
Nigh had asked in pleadings that the U.S. government consider Johnson’s state court sentence, which allowed him to work and pay restitution.
Johnson pleaded guilty in Tulsa County District Court to four counts of accepting cash bribes and in June was sentenced to 15 years’ probation. He was ordered to pay $236,591 in restitution.
Eagan, however, said those factors don’t outweigh the defendant’s “egregious violation of public trust.”
A former vendor of custodial supplies and security equipment to the school district, Enos pleaded guilty in state court in May to offering bribes totaling $10,000 to Johnson while he was the district’s superintendent. Enos was sentenced to 10 years probation and was ordered to pay restitution of $420,606.
A state audit released in 2010 found that the school district paid Enos -- through companies he manages -- $570,000 more than it would have paid for custodial supplies and security equipment had it bought them directly. Tulsa County grand jury indictments unsealed in 2010 accused Johnson, who later resigned, of embezzlement and bribery in connection with that audit.
According to the federal count, Enos also operated E&E Tax Services, through which he prepared and submitted Johnson’s individual federal income tax returns for certain years. In March 2009, Enos prepared Johnson’s 2008 federal income tax return knowing that the cash kickbacks paid to Johnson weren’t included as income on the return, the charges allege.
Johnson accepted items of value from Enos, including cash, tickets to college football games, and the costs of travel, food, entertainment and lodging, documents show.
To conceal their agreement, the pair communicated using code words, records say.
As early as 2007 and on a recurring basis, the two communicated using the code word “cabinet” to refer to cash payments of $100 and the code words “large cabinet” to refer to cash payments of $1,000, court documents state.
While in a suite at an OU football game in the fall of 2008, Enos clandestinely gave Johnson a cash payment hidden in a football program, the charges claim.
In any one-year period, Skiatook Public Schools received benefits in excess of $10,000 under federal programs involving grants and other forms of federal assistance, documents show.
During federal sentencing, Nigh described his client as “a good man who lost his way” and a person who has since done a “complete about-face.”
The attorney said that what started out as a gift of a couple of football tickets, over time “clearly got out of control.”
Johnson’s state restitution obligation, which will be waived during his prison term, will resume once he is released, officials said.