Former Skiatook school superintendent gets federal prison term for bribery, tax fraud
BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Friday, February 08, 2013
2/08/13 at 8:04 AM
Calling his actions an "egregious violation of public trust," a federal judge handed a former Skiatook Public Schools superintendent a 12-month, one-day prison sentence Thursday for 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 must be under court supervision for three years after 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 incarcerated for about 10 months, Assistant U.S. Attorney Trent Shores said.
Skiatook school patron Rob Ridenour helped petition for a grand jury to investigate corruption in the school district.
"You don't mess with the feds," he said in a telephone interview. "I'm positive that the court gave consideration to all the factors and imposed a fair sentence.
"In terms of trying to address the problem, a lot of what occurred happened because a lot of people decided to stand up. It shows the power of the people."
Rob Nigh, Johnson's attorney, declined to comment as he was leaving the courtroom. Enos, 60, wasn't sentenced Thursday.
Before Eagan meted out his 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 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 of probation and was ordered to pay restitution of $420,606.
A state audit found that the Skiatook school district paid Enos - through the 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 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 charge alleges.
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, "clearly got out of control" over time.
Johnson's state restitution obligation, which will be waived during his prison term, will resume once he is released from federal prison, officials said.
Skiatook bribery scandal timeline
February: State investigative
audit finds that Skiatook
Public Schools overpaid by
more than $500,000 for
custodial supplies and security
equipment from July
2004 through December
March: School board suspends
Johnson with full pay and
May: School board accepts
Johnson’s resignation, effective
June 30; panel votes
to remove Johnson’s name
from the school’s activity
June: Unsealed Tulsa
County grand jury indictments
accuse Johnson of
embezzlement and receiving
bribes. Grand jury also
issues notice to remove
school board President
Kenneth Cooper from office
for “official misconduct”
and issues vote of “no confidence”
to Interim Superintendent
July: Cooper resigns, saying
he hopes his move can help
November: School board accepts
hires Kem Keithley of Enid
as interim superintendent.
January: Skiatook hires Rick
Thomas of Oologah-Talala
as its new superintendent,
effective July 1.
July: Johnson pleads guilty
in Tulsa County District
Court to four counts of accepting
cash bribes totaling
$10,000 from Enos. District
attorney dismisses charges
connected with indictment
in accordance with plea
May: Oklahoma City vendor
Rick Enos pleads guilty in
Tulsa County District Court
to four counts of bribing a
June: Johnson receives 15
July: Enos is sentenced to
10 years probation.
October: Johnson and Enos
plead guilty in U.S. District
Court to conspiracy to
February: Johnson is
sentenced to 12 months
and one-day in prison on
Original Print Headline: Ex-Skiatook schools chief gets federal prison term
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395