Friday, August 13, 2010

Former Cleveland School Official Sentenced to Six Years in Prison

Bernard K. Watkins, age 54, of Shaker Heights, Ohio, was sentenced to six years in prison following his convictions for two counts of Extortion Under Color of Official Right and one count of Bribery in Federally Funded Programs, Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and C. Frank Figliuzzi, Special Agent in Charge of the Cleveland Division of the FBI, announced today.

“People who use their position to violate the public’s trust cannot and will not be tolerated,” Dettelbach said. “Contracts are supposed to go to the best bidder, not somebody’s best friend or the person who gave a cash bribe.”

Said Figliuzzi: “There are severe consequences for betraying the public’s trust. If there are any officials left who haven’t figured that out yet, this sentencing should send that message.”

The sentencing took place in Akron before the Honorable Judge John R. Adams in Case No. 1:09CR490.

Watkins previously was found guilty after a jury trial of receiving $7,000 in cash, and using his official position of Technical Supervisor for Safety and Security with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (“CMSD”). As an agent of CMSD, Watkins was responsible for supervising contracts for security systems within the district, including closed circuit security cameras and alarms.

Watkins received cash payments from a representative of Vision Security Solutions LLC (“Vision”), a security systems contractor in Galveston, Texas and Washington, D.C., in order to facilitate business and contracts with the CMSD. The Vision representative contacted agents with the FBI Cleveland Division and agreed to record and monitor two separate meetings with Watkins during which she paid him $7,000 in cash.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin J. Roberts, following an investigation by the Cleveland office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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