A top official in the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services has pleaded guilty to theft, bribery and procurement fraud, the Maryland Attorney General announced Wednesday.
The employee, James Schoo, was the director of General Services at the Department of Juvenile Services, and had the ability to manage and award maintenance contracts valued under $15,000.
According to the attorney general’s office, Schoo received a stream of gifts and benefits from a contractor to whom he awarded more than 120 contracts.
Between July 2013 and August 2016, the contractor, Seabolt & Sons, received approximately 128 contracts below the $15,000 threshold that Schoo could approve. The state of Maryland paid the company, owned by Andrew Seabolt, approximately $1.2 million through the maintenance contracts and purchase orders.
In return, Seabolt provided Schoo with the installation of a concrete driveway at his home, the purchase of wood cabinets that were installed in his kitchen, and carpet installation at Schoo’s home, a rental property, and at the home of his daughter, according to charges filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court.
Schoo, 73, made no payments for the materials and work, according to the court records.
As part of the scheme, Schoo also solicited fake proposals from an employee of another vendor; that employee provided Schoo with benefits including a golf outing and a trip to New York City, according to the attorney general’s office.
When that employee’s husband became unemployed, Schoo paid the man by first fraudulently presenting him as a contractor and then by hiring him as a DJS employee, despite a lack of qualifications, according to the attorney general’s office.
Schoo made payment to the husband via a state check made out to a nonexistent company. The nonexistent company later became a source for false proposals used as losing submissions in other procurements; ultimately, 23 requisitions were approved by Schoo in which Seabolt & Sons was awarded the work, and the fake company was inserted as the losing bidder, according to the attorney general’s office.
The state investigation also revealed that Schoo used a state credit card to purchase nearly $7,000 of items for himself, according to prosecutors.
Some of the questionable expenses had been referred to the Office of Legislative Audits’ waste, fraud and abuse hotline, prompting that agency to review the purchases and refer the matter to the Office of the Attorney General; an OLA report from November 2017 noted deficiencies in procurement oversight at DJS.
He pleaded guilty to one count of theft greater than $1,500 and less than $25,000, five counts of bribery, and one count of conspiracy to commit procurement fraud, according to a signed plea agreement.
The theft and conspiracy charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and each bribery count carries a potential maximum penalty of 12 years. According to the plea agreement, Schoo and the state agreed to a 10-year suspended prison sentence with five years of probation. The first two years of probation would be served in home detention, according to the agreement.
Schoo also agreed to pay $6,930.37 in restitution to the state and a $22,006.42 fine, according to the agreement.
A judge could impose penalties different from those in the agreement. Schoo’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 22.
Seabolt was charged with five counts of bribery in May 2019 and pled guilty in August 2019, according to online court records. He received a five-year suspended prison sentence in Baltimore County Circuit Court last week.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include additional detail from court records and a legislative audit.