Schools ex-staffer guilty of theft

Facilities manager defrauded city system of over $4 million

Schemes took place over 13 years

He conspired with contractors to fabricate invoices, overcharge

July 09, 2005|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

A longtime school employee pleaded guilty yesterday to defrauding the Baltimore school system of more than $4 million over 13 years by conspiring with contractors to fabricate invoices and overcharge for maintenance services.

Rajiv Dixit, 53, of Reisterstown, a former facilities manager for the system, pleaded guilty to 11 charges -- including theft, conspiracy, bribery, extortion and embezzlement -- stemming from two indictments.

Each of the most serious charges carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. Sentencing has been scheduled for October.

Dixit also agreed to pay restitution and fines and to forfeit assets totaling $1.1 million to the federal government, said Assistant State Prosecutor Steven Trostle.

Dixit was fired from the system in 2003 after working there for nearly 30 years, prosecutors said. School officials have declined to comment on the circumstances of his termination.

He was indicted in September and last month in two cases arising from his alleged collaboration with a pair of contractors -- both of whom have pleaded guilty to related charges. The schemes were made possible by a now-changed policy that gave Dixit the authority to sign off on bills under $5,000 without his supervisors' consent.

An investigation was launched last year after school officials notified the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor that they had discovered a potentially corrupt employee in the facilities department. The state prosecutor investigates cases of corruption by public officials.

In one of the two schemes, Dixit and the owner of a boiler repair company conspired to steal $3.3 million from the system between 1991 and 2004. Gilbert Sapperstein, the owner of All-State Boiler Service Inc., paid Dixit more than $1 million in bribes in exchange for his help receiving payments for fraudulent invoices, prosecutors said.

In May, Sapperstein pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery and theft and agreed to repay $3.3 million to the school system. He will serve an 18-month jail term.

In the second case, Dixit received $300,000 in bribes from a Baltimore businessman and his son for helping them steal more than $800,000 from the system. Melvin Duklewski and his son James Duklewski pleaded guilty to charges for their part in the scheme of selling unnecessary water-conditioning equipment to schools.

The restitution Dixit agreed to yesterday will be applied to the scheme involving the Duklewskis, who also were ordered to repay money.

In addition to taking bribes from the contractors, Dixit required them to buy him gift certificates and expensive liquor and to perform work on two gas stations he owned, according to information read in court before Dixit's guilty plea.

State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh called the plea a "major victory" but said his office still has "a lot of leads" to follow.

"This is not the end of the investigation into Baltimore City schools," he said.

Kenneth Ravenell, Dixit's attorney, said his client admits participating in the schemes but did not receive as much money in kickbacks as prosecutors allege. Ravenell said he will ask that Dixit, who has no other criminal convictions, be sentenced to probation.

The attorney also said Dixit decided to plead guilty and cooperate with investigators to spare his family the pain of a lengthy trial.

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