Monday, October 5, 2009

Does this seem right? Couple steals $4.3 million from schools--Wife ends up with one felony conviction, husband gets one MISDEMEANOR

The complexities of law are definitely not my area of expertise, but to me, a recent settlement seems to fall somewhat short of justice being served. John and Susan Ross, in a premeditated and devious scheme, purposely took advantage of their positions and lax safeguards on spending approvals, laundering approximately $4.3 million through a fake company over 5 years, besides committing serious copyright fraud. That money came from federal Title I funds, funds meant to help the poorest, most disadvantaged students.

John Ross was convicted of one misdemeanor charge "because "he was not employed in the same capacity" as his wife and has serious health concerns." He seems just as cognizant and culpable as his wife, an employee of the district who directed Title I funds, who was convicted of one felony Money Laundering charge. Prosecutors will recommend she serve 27 months in prison of a possible 10 years for the charge. John also worked for the district and was in on the scheme from the beginning, besides previously working as the Title I specialist at the State Office of Education, which surely aided the couple's plan greatly in terms of knowledge of the system and how to fool it. John also admitted that "In addition to placing fraudulent copyrights on books, [he] made payments to printers and picked up and delivered the books, according to his signed plea agreement."

The two of them plead guilty to 2 of a total 47 charges originally filed against them and will pay back "$786,000 in cash, as well as homes in Layton, South Weber and Mountain Green, and at least two cars." What does that total? 1.5 million dollars maybe if the houses are more than $200,000 each? An earlier article reveals the cars will not garner extravagant revenue.

This lady stole $100 from the Utah Highway Patrol last year. She plead guilty to one felony which was reduced to a misdemeanor, got 30 days of home confinement, was required to do 150 community service hours, paid a fine of 5 and 1/2 times what she stole, and further reimbursed the court for the cost of the criminal investigation.

The Rosses stole 43,000 times more money from a more vulnerable group while abusing the public trust in their positions of leadership, and will pay back less than half of what they stole, let alone the cost of a 3 year investigation and plea bargain process. I also don't see any home confinement time for John Ross for a more serious misdemeanor charge or any community service for either of them.

It seems they were eventually caught red-handed. Is there a problem with the evidence? Does the cost of a trial--after literally years of state lawyers' time being spent on plea negotiations--not justify throwing the book at them? I just don't get this one.

I have more to say on the ethics initiative, but it's more involved and I haven't had the time yet.