Although U.S. Attorney Special Prosecutor Bob Rawls attempted to make Beaumont Independent School District contract electrician Calvin Walker forfeit employment with the school district, federal judge Ron Clark refused to make the stipulation part of Walker’s plea agreement with the court Dec. 12.
Walker entered into a plea arrangement with the federal court following a mistrial in December 2011 wherein the BISD electrician was charged with 37 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, fraud committed on BISD, and tax fraud. As part of the deal, every count of the indictment was dismissed against Walker in exchange for a guilty plea to a single misdemeanor of “failing to timely pay tax.”
Walker was initially brought to trial after a federal investigation revealed evidence that the electrician filed fraudulent invoices with BISD. A jury failed to convict Walker, but upon negotiating a plea arrangement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Walker admitted to the allegations of document tampering. On July 17 of this year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced a plea arrangement was in the works for Walker. At that time, Walker forfeited more than $3 million in assets to the government to be used for back taxes and reimbursement of BISD overcharges. U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Davilyn Walston said any money left over after taxes and fines were confiscated from the allotment was available to BISD to reclaim since the funds initially came from checks issued to Walker by BISD in response to falsified invoices. Funds from the forfeited money not used for BISD’s restitution would be placed into a national fund for victims’ compensation, she added.
BISD trustees voted 4-2 on Oct. 18 to forfeit any right to roughly $2 million of the forfeited money. Three months prior, BISD renewed its current contract with Walker to extend through summer 2013.
In the aftermath of BISD’s decision to extend the electrician’s contract after Walker admitted to falsifying invoices submitted to BISD for payment, the U.S. Attorney’s Office asked the court to give taxpayers some relief. According to a proposed Sentencing Memorandum, the U.S. Attorney’s Office wanted Walker to forfeit any rights to work on publicly funded projects to go along with forfeiting ill-gotten funding from BISD, specifically requiring that Walker “refrain from performing services for or in connection with public contracts in any manner from any public entity which receives taxpayer funds as its main source of revenue, including school districts, municipalities, municipal utility districts, and counties; or in the alternative, from performing services for or in connection with public contracts in any manner from the Beaumont Independent School District and the City of Port Arthur.”
The purpose of the added stipulations was, according to the document, “to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the offense; to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct; and to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant.” The court was asked to consider the addition due to “the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need for the sentence imposed to reflect the seriousness of the offense.”
Additionally, the U.S. Attorney contended, “Given that the defendant engaged in fraudulent conduct on repeated occasions to generate income as admitted in the factual basis demonstrates that such a restriction is reasonably necessary to protect the public as the defendant will continue to engage in similar unlawful conduct.”
Walker’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, argued that Walker’s admission to falsifying invoices was not material to the charges for which his client was convicted – namely, failing to pay tax in a timely manner.
“We feel like we were blindsided,” DeGuerin told Judge Ron Clark on Dec. 12. “This just damages Mr. Walker’s reputation further than what it has already been damaged.”
Furthermore, DeGuerin said, requiring Walker to forfeit contracts with BISD would “emasculate” his client’s ability to make money.
U.S. Attorney Rawls countered that Walker could take his “‘different and unique accounting method to the business sector for awhile.”
According to Rawls, it was the U.S. Attorney’s position that Walker’s conduct was “recurring,” dating back to 2003, and only stipulations in place to prevent Walker from conducting business with BISD would allow “some relief for the local taxpayers.”
Still, the court ruled that Walker’s business dealings with BISD were not under the purview of the court and the BISD Board Of Trustees would be held accountable by the taxpayers.
“While one can understand the frustration, I am bound by what the law is,” Judge Clark ruled. “BISD has a board, attorneys, a superintendent. … I don’t see that the court should step in as some super-superintendent.”
The plea deal ultimately reached with Walker details that he be required to retain a certified public accountant to prepare and file any returns while under probation, will pay in excess of $660,000 in restitution, serve one year probation, perform 400 community service hours, and pay a $60,000 fine and $25 assessment fee.
After effectively securing Walker’s future employment with BISD, DeGuerin made a statement regarding the verdict on behalf of his client.
“This was a long, hard thing for Calvin Walker and his family — but it’s over,” he said. “I think it says a great deal of the government’s case that not a single count of the 37 count indictment they were able to prove. This shows confidence in Calvin Walker; he will be able to back and continue to do the great job he has been doing.”
Walker said he never knowingly did anything wrong.
“It was never my intent to defraud the IRS, nor was it my intent to defraud BISD,” he said. “It’s just not what I do.”