2 men charged in theft scheme

Seven people have been convicted in plot to steal from Baltimore school system

Baltimore & Region

November 17, 2005|By LYNN ANDERSON | LYNN ANDERSON,SUN REPORTER

Two more men have been charged in connection with an elaborate scheme to steal more than $4 million from the city school system, bringing the number of people charged to nine, seven of whom have been convicted.

State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh announced yesterday that his office has filed criminal charges against William S. West, 62, a retired city police officer who lives in Florida, and Gonzalo O. Garcia, 51, a Perry Hall resident who owns Garcia HVAC, a heating and air-conditioning repair business.

Among those convicted was Gilbert Sapperstein, who used his boiler repair business to defraud the city school system. Sapperstein is also a liquor license broker, and he runs another business that leases video poker games to bars.

FOR THE RECORD - Because of incorrect information provided by the state prosecutor's office, an article yesterday misstated the name of a business run by Gonzalo O. Garcia, who faces criminal charges in connection with a city schools corruption scandal. Garcia operates Gonzalo HVACR Co. The Sun regrets the errors.

According to court documents, Sapperstein submitted fraudulent work claims to the school system to receive more money than he was owed for boiler repair work.

The 72-year-old Green Spring Valley resident pleaded guilty to theft, bribery and conspiracy and was sentenced to 18 months in prison in August. However, he served only about a month before he was released on home detention.

Rohrbaugh said West served as a bodyguard for Sapperstein between 1997 and 2000.

He said West was indicted by a grand jury in Anne Arundel County and charged with three counts of tax perjury in connection with tax forms he filed in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

West also served as a bodyguard for Rajiv Dixit, 53, of Reisterstown, a former schools facilities manager who was sentenced to five years in prison last month for his role in the school scheme. Prosecutors called Dixit the ringleader because without his cooperation, the plan to steal the money would have never been successful.

During his trial, Sapperstein's bookkeeper testified that Dixit would call her on the telephone and tell her how to fix the work orders so that her boss would get more money.

In return, Sapperstein gave Dixit one-third of the money he was paid. He also gave Dixit expensive gifts and had his crews perform free work at the man's home and Exxon gas stations.

Dixit, who also pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery and theft, was sentenced to five years in prison last month.

Garcia was charged with using his air conditioning business to steal $38,000 from the city school system, Rohrbaugh said. Prosecutors said Dixit used Garcia to win contracts through a program that helps minority businesses.

lynn.anderson@baltsun.com

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