5 years given in schools theft

Ex-facilities manager netted over $1 million in bribes in 12 years

October 29, 2005|By LYNN ANDERSON | LYNN ANDERSON,SUN REPORTER

The man whom state prosecutors called the "ringleader" in an elaborate scheme to steal $4.2 million from the city school system over 12 years was sentenced in Baltimore City Circuit Court yesterday to five years in prison and three years of supervised probation.

Rajiv Dixit, 53, of Reisterstown was led out of Judge Roger Brown's courtroom in handcuffs as his wife cried, despite the efforts of his defense team to paint him as a man who had paid dearly for his crime and whose life had been marred by mental illness.

Dixit's attorneys - William "Billy" H. Murphy and Kenneth Ravenell - huddled with Dixit's adult sons after the judge delivered his sentence about 7 p.m. last night. Murphy said they would meet with the family today and then decide what steps to take next.

State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh, whose staff investigated the school theft scheme, had asked Brown to sentence Dixit to 12 years in prison, one year for every year that the former schools facilities manager engaged in illegal activities. But he said last night that he was pleased with the outcome.

"We wanted 12 years, and we were serious about that," Rohrbaugh said. "But five years is better than home detention."

Dixit's attorneys asked Brown to sentence their client to six months of home detention because of his fragile mental state. They said that time in jail would be tantamount to a death sentence for Dixit, who takes psychiatric medications for bipolar disorder.

As part of the sentencing hearing, an unusually long process that lasted much of the day and into the evening, Dixit's attorneys produced a check for $500,000 made out to the city school system, as well as a check for $100,000 in fines. The federal government has also collected $500,000 from Dixit in forfeited funds that prosecutors say he received through a scheme involving inflated work invoices.

Dixit, who served as facilities manager for the city school system for more than 20 years, pleaded guilty in July to 11 charges, including theft, conspiracy, bribery, extortion and embezzlement. State prosecutors say he netted more than $1 million in kickbacks in about a decade, money he used to finance other businesses, including two gas stations and a lavish home.

He is one of several people charged in at least two schemes in which inflated invoices for boiler work were submitted and paid for by the school system. The schemes were discovered after school officials hired auditors to review the system's fiscal records.

Also convicted of bribery and theft as a result of the investigation by state prosecutors was Gilbert Sapperstein, 72, of Green Spring Valley. Sapperstein, who owns All-State Boiler Services Inc. and Star Coin Machine Co., a bar vending machine business, was sentenced in August to 18 months in prison for his role in the most lucrative of the two schemes.

Together, Sapperstein and Dixit managed to steal $3.3 million from the school system between 1991 and 2004, according to court documents. Sapperstein has repaid the sum of the money stolen plus 6 percent interest, as well as other fines and penalties. He also paid $138,084 to the city Department of Public Works, the amount he stole from that agency as part of a similar scheme involving inflated invoices.

In a separate scheme, Dixit worked with two other contractors to steal more than $800,000 from the system.

Although he was sentenced to more than a year in prison, Sapperstein was released to home detention after about a month in jail. Officials with the state Division of Corrections have said that he met all guidelines for home detention and that his sentence was reduced automatically by about nine months in anticipation of his participation in prison programs and overall good behavior.

Rohrbaugh has vowed to review Sapperstein's prison file to make sure that he did not receive favorable treatment. State prison officials have said that he did not.

lynn.anderson@baltsun.com

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