Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Photo Enforcement Company Working with Montgomery County Embroiled in Fraud, Bribery Scandal

The former CEO of a company which put photo enforcement systems on Montgomery County school buses has plead guilty to federal fraud charges, according to an article on WTOP.   WTOP wrote:

"Robert Leonard, former CEO of Force Multiplier Solutions, a school bus camera company that had a contract with Montgomery County, Maryland schools, entered his guilty plea in Texas on Aug. 9.
According to the federal plea agreement, Leonard paid $450,000 in a bribe and kickback scheme involving a Dallas City Council member. Leonard also admitted to paying a Dallas County Schools Superintendent more than $3 million in bribes and kickback payments. In return, Leonard’s company, Force Multiplier Solutions, was promoted for contracts with school systems in Texas.
Montgomery County entered into an agreement with Force Multiplier Solutions two years ago. The deal eventually put an array of cameras in the entire fleet of Montgomery County school buses. In return, the revenues from violations by drivers who pass stopped school buses would be forwarded to Force Multiplier Solutions.
In June, Montgomery County School Superintendent Jack Smith wrote to the Montgomery County Council asking for $4.7 million in supplemental funds for the school bus safety system — now known as Bus Patrol America."  See full article at WTOP.com.

Force Multiplier Solutions has attempted to shake the scandal by rebuilding itself as an entirely new company under the name "BusPatrol America" and shedding the Force Multiplier brand.  “It’s a brand-new company and has no connection with any of the previous ownership of Force Multiplier Solutions,” BusPatrol CEO David Poirier stated to WTOP.  However both companies listed the address 8540 Cinder Bed Rd., Suite 400 Lorton, VA 22079 as their registered office, and David Poirier had been listed the registered agent for Force Multiplier Solutions, and several other Force Multiplier Solutions employees now work for BusPatrol.  A news article published at the time of Force Multiplier's closing stated that BusPatrol was "taking over the intellectual property" of the former company.    (But hey it's not the same company, since if you OK with bribery and fraud, then lies and deception is really nothing).

A 2016 memo describes how Montgomery County employees David McBain and Tom Watkins and Richard traveled to Force Multiplier's Dallas HQ and met with school Superintendent Ricky Dale Sorrells and Leonard, who are the subjects of the bribery and fraud scandal.  Montgomery County's contract with FSX began shortly thereafter.
The relationship between Montgomery County and BusPatrol is so close that the photo of Captain Tom Didone, the head of Montgomery County's entire photo enforcement program appears on the BusPatrol website to promote the company's business.

Screen Snapshot from BusPatrol website featuring a promotion by Montgomery County's Captain Thomas Didone

Montgomery County has pushed the state legislature first to authorize the issuance of stop arm camera citation, and then to raise the fines.  These violations now carry the lowest burden of proof of any violations in Maryland, and do not provide any right to face the accuser or operator nor do many of the limitations or legal protections which apply to speed camera citations apply.  As a result this has quickly become a multi-million dollar per year program.  However, there is no evidence that this has had any effect at reducing traffic fatalities, primarily because the rate of traffic fatalities caused by this was essentially zero in the county already.  Data published by the NHTSA shows that traffic fatalities caused by vehicles passing school buses are among the least common cause of school transportation fatalities.  In fact NHTSA data shows that for a student to be killed by being "struck by school vehicle" (which is rare to begin with) was three times more likely than a fatality where they were "struck by other vehicle involved in collision".  Locally, there had been no recent traffic fatalities cited to have been caused by this type of violation in Montgomery County prior to the creation of the program, whereas school buses struck and killed pedestrians in Maryland in June 2015 and March 2013, and other collisions involving Montgomery county school buses and pedestrians have also occurred in recent years.  Nevertheless, the county's stop arm cameras have become highly profitable.

Additional Coverage:
TheNewsPaper: Maryland, Virginia School deal with Disgraced Camera Company
WTOP: CEO of company which outfitted Montgomery County School Buses with Cameras pleads Guilty to Federal Fraud Charges
Memorandum describing creation of Montgomery County's contract with FSX
Memorandum of FSX funding from Montgomery County