Wednesday, September 24, 2014

MHS Athletic Director, 2 Others Plead Guilty to Embezzlement in Virginia

Monticello High School athletic director Fitzgerald Barnes admitted in Charlottesville Federal Court Friday to being part of a bid rigging scheme when buying sports equipment for his school's teams.

The fraud also involves David Deane, vice president of Albemarle County-based Downtown Athletics, and Charles Phillips, an equipment vendor in Maryland. All three men pleaded guilty, each to one federal misdemeanor charge.

The case – and - fraud may extend back for years. From 2008 to 2010, federal prosecutors say, Barnes, Deane, and Phillips schemed to get around Albemarle County's policy that requires three competitive bids for purchases over $1,000.

Investigators say the men arranged for Monticello High School to get two fictitious bids, and one lower one from Downtown Athletics, to insure Downtown Athletics would get the business. The purchases involved athletic apparel and equipment all bound for Monticello High School.

"Based on what we learned from the U.S. attorney office they said that there has not been any financial injury to the school system,” said Matthew Haas, assistant superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools.

In court Friday morning, all three men waived the right to be indicted and go to trial, instead admitting their parts and pleading guilty to the bid-rigging plan.

Barnes, who is also a Louisa County supervisor, will pay a $750 fine and is on administrative leave as athletic director at Monticello, pending a review by the school system. Phillips will pay a $350 fine and Dean's fine is $1,500.

Department of Justice, United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy Western District of Virginia Press Release

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA – Three men, including the athletic director at Monticello High School and the vice president of Downtown Athletic Store, pled guilty this morning in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia to a federal misdemeanor charge related to bid rigging.

In separate hearings this morning in Federal Court, Fitzgerald Arnette Barnes, 50, of Louisa, Va., David Mayhew Deane, 54, of Keswick, Va., and Charles Albert Phillips, 48, of Annapolis, Md., waived their right to be indicted and pled guilty to a one-count Information charging each with one count of knowingly embezzling money belonging to the United States.

“When school officials spend taxpayer dollars, they must comply with procurement rules that encourage competition and ensure that schools obtain the best possible price,” United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today. “These three individuals worked together to circumvent these important procurement regulations by creating dummy bids for athletic apparel and equipment. This case demonstrates our continuing commitment to ensuring that public funds are responsibly handled.”

Barnes, the athletic director at Monticello High School, has admitted to being involved with Deane, the Vice President of Downtown Athletic, and Phillips, the Vice President of Sales for Team Distributor, a sports apparel retailer in Maryland, in a scheme to fix bids on athletic apparel purchased for Monticello

The three have admitted that between August 2008 and August 2010 they fraudulently created price bids that were used as the basis for contracts involving the sale of athletic equipment and apparel from Downtown Athletic to Monticello High School. Albemarle County policy requires a bid from three different vendors when entering into contracts with private companies for goods and services which cost more than $1000.

Over the course of several years, Barnes directed Deane to obtain and submit to Monticello High School the three required bids, one bid for Downtown Athletic and two representing other, fictitious retailers, ensuring Downtown Athletic would be awarded the contract.

On several occasions, Deane contacted Phillips and asked him to also submit false bids to Monticello High School that were higher than the bid submitted by Downtown Athletic Store. After receiving the two false and one authentic bid, Barnes awarded multiple contracts for the sale of athletic apparel and equipment to Deane and Downtown Athletic.

Following today's guilty plea hearing, all three defendants were sentenced. Phillips was ordered to pay a $350 fine, Barnes was ordered to pay a $750 fine and Deane was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy and Assistant United States Attorney Ronald Huber prosecuted the case for the United States.

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