U.S. Attorney’s Office amends Walker plea agreement

U.S. Attorney’s Office amends Walker plea agreement

Beaumont Independent School District (BISD) electrical contractor Calvin Walker must again report before a federal judge to answer allegations he bilked the school district and the federal government out of millions of dollars. He is scheduled to appear in Beaumont’s federal courthouse Dec. 12. Walker is expected to take a plea deal, but paperwork filed at the court earlier this week changes the scope of the deal.

On July 17 of this year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, representing the federal government, announced a plea arrangement was in the works for Walker, dismissing a 37 count indictment that alleged wire fraud, fraud upon programs receiving federal funds, money laundering and mail fraud by the defendant in exchange for Walker pleading guilty to charges related to tax evasion. 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 will be placed into a national fund for victims’ compensation.

BISD trustees voted 4-2 on Oct. 18 to relinquish any right to roughly $2 million of the forfeited money, although Walker admitted as part of the initially announced plea arrangement with the U.S. Attorney to falsifying invoices submitted to the school district for payment. The decision to not seek the funds came the day after an attempt by BISD board president Woodrow Reece and Melody Chappell to claim attorney’s fees from the Walker money was denied by a federal court.

According to the Motion to Strike a Claim alleging rights to Walker’s forfeited funds filed by Chappell and verified by Reece, “Beaumont ISD assisted the United States Attorney’s office in gathering information (and) witnesses for prosecution of this matter. Beaumont ISD seeks to obtain payment for attorney fees and costs associated with the attempted prosecution of Calvin Walker.

“Beaumont ISD has incurred costs which can be calculated and proven.”

U.S. Attorney Michael Lockhart filed an objection to Chappell’s motion, stating it was “because BISD has failed to allege an ownership interest in the Defendant Property. Without such allegation of ownership, BISD has no standing to challenge the forfeiture and the claim should be stricken.”

A final order dated Oct. 17 sided with the U.S. Attorney, stating that, “The Court is of the opinion that BISD has failed to allege an ownership interest in the Defendant Property. It is ordered that the claim of BISD is stricken from the record.”

Reece said the district was not going to take the route of asserting ownership to Walker’s forfeited money.

“They want us to do what the courts could not do,” Reece said.

The courts have since elected to pursue more repercussions against Walker as part of his deal with the government. According to a recently filed Sentencing Memorandum, the U.S. Attorney’s Office now wants 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.”

The court also asked that Walker be required to retain a certified public accountant to prepare and file any tax returns while under probation.

Additionally, the U.S. attorney contends, “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.”

BISD approved the renewal of Walker’s contract with the district after charges were brought against the electrical contractor. His current contract is not set to expire until the summer of 2013.