Richard Allen Ellis Jr. of Hollywood, FL, was charged with four counts of bribery concerning a federally funded program and four counts of extortion under color of official right. It is unclear if he has acquired the services of attorney.
According to the eight-count indictment which was unsealed on December 18, the alleged bribery occurred between September and December 2018, while Ellis, 49, was working for the school board’s Physical Plant Operations Division. Prosecutors said the alleged payments may have started as early as 2016, but no specific examples were cited in the indictment.
Ellis is accused of accepting four cash payments totaling $6,130 from an individual employed by a district contractor that did work at various public schools in Broward County. The payments were for ensuring the contractor and the individual received steady work and timely payment of invoices, the indictment claims.
As grounds supervisor, Ellis was tasked with managing work orders, ensuring work was adequately performed by contractors, and authorizing payments. The repairs he approved required supplies to be transported to Florida through interstate commerce. He illegally delayed and obstructed commerce “by extortion,” the indictment says, but it doesn’t specify what exactly transpired.
The individual who paid Ellis was cooperating with the FBI, according to the indictment. Neither the individual nor the contractor is named, but the contractor reportedly handled work on driveways and athletic facilities, repairs of traffic signage, asphalt sealcoating, and paint striping.
News sources claim the contractor is Pence Sealcoating Corp. because it has been the district’s only vendor for more than ten years. However, records show the board approved a contract in May 2018 that allowed it to hire two other contractors in addition to Pence.
Ellis’ arrested comes just a few months after a scalding review by the Council of Great City Schools found outrageously steep costs for grounds work in Broward schools, particularly when performed by external contractors. The review, published in October, found that the district spent $6,189 per acre for such work, compared with an average of $694 per acre in the rest of the state.
A internal audit conducted in 2017 was critical of the district’s contract with Pence, which was the only company that performed groundskeeping work for the district at the time. The audit reportedly found 47 invoices filed between 2010 and 2017 that paid supervisors, installers, and laborers rates as high as $150 to $300 per hour. In comparison, Palm Beach County schools purportedly paid $15 to $45 per hour for a comparable project in 2016.
Ellis was arraigned in federal court on Wednesday. If convicted he could face up to 10 years in prison for each count of bribery, and 20 years for the interfering with commerce charge. He could also be fined $250,000 for each charge and lose his state pension.
South Florida Bribery Attorney
If you are involved in a bribery case, then you should hire an attorney. Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and work with one of South Florida’s most experienced bribery attorneys.