Maize school district gets nearly $490,000 in settlement of fraud case

The Wichita Eagle

The Maize school district has recovered nearly $490,000 from the estate of a former technology director who was the focus of a federal investigation into a fraud, money laundering and kickback scheme.

According to court records obtained by The Eagle, a forfeiture case in U.S. District Court against the estate of Ramon Mosate was closed Sept. 21.

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The court ordered that $78,651.11 be paid to Mosate’s widow, Angie, and the remainder of the estate’s proceeds – $489,641.43 – to the Maize school district. The district had made a claim “in excess of $500,000” against the estate of Ramon Mosate, who committed suicide in April 2015 and had no will.

“It’s over and settled and done. … I think we got as much as we could verify was accessible,” said Maize superintendent Chad Higgins.

“We’re just glad this black eye is healed up – or healing up – and we’re anxious to move on.”

Ramon Mosate’s alleged crimes came to light in November 2014, when agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a search warrant at Maize district headquarters.

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Following the search, an affidavit submitted by FBI special agent Thomas Ensz as part of a federal civil forfeiture case chronicled years of money transfers and cash payments between Ramon Mosate and several vendors who were paid more than $4 million for technology-related services.

Ensz said he believed the Mosates’ house, at 3103 N. Den Hollow Court in northwest Wichita, as well as the contents of Ramon Mosate’s checking account and a safe deposit box containing about $80,000 cash were funded by criminal activity.

Jim Cross, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Wichita, said no criminal charges have been filed as part of the investigation. He said he “can’t confirm or deny there being any federal investigations” into other people or companies identified in the FBI affidavit.

In a statement issued to Maize employees Friday, Higgins said the settlement “is positive news for our district.”

“Though this total does not equal all of the potential financial losses, Maize Schools is grateful to the officials who worked to recover taxpayer resources that belong in our district, our classrooms, and our community,” the superintendent said.

Higgins said the settlement payment will go into the district’s capital outlay fund, where it “could protect the district financially as we continue in an uncertain atmosphere of public school funding with potential cuts following the election.”

He said the district could use the money to buy technology equipment for classrooms or an updated system for scheduling and tracking school buses.

“Those kinds of things are very valuable but expensive, especially the start-up costs,” he said. “So these are the kinds of things, at least so far, that I’ve considered – things that we would have put off a little longer.”

Higgins, who was hired in May 2015, said the case prompted the district to review its purchasing practices and implement additional checks and balances.

“Again, I think this was collusion,” Higgins said. “We had one dishonest person on the inside and one dishonest person on the outside. In any business, any organization, they’re going to pull it off for a while.

“But for us, we now have multiple views on all purchases. We have multiple parties involved. … Once things are ordered, there’s multiple verifications – not only that it was received, but that it’s going to the place it’s supposed to go.”

The Mosates’ 6,000-square-foot, six-bedroom home near 29th North and Tyler, in the Maize school district, was last appraised at $628,600, according to Sedgwick County tax records. According to court records, the house sold in September 2015 for about $483,000, but proceeds were held in lien pending lawsuits.

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The Maize district’s claim against the estate of Ramon Mosate sought damages for “fraud, conversion, and civil theft, and breach of contract in connection with … embezzlement of funds.”

Angie Mosate said in a document filed in response to that claim that she was unaware of any alleged illegal acts committed by her late husband, and she argued that any proceeds from his estate belong to her and the couple’s four children.

Ramon Mosate began working for the Maize district in August 1997. He and his wife, who worked for the district as a curriculum clerk, were placed on administrative leave in November 2014.

The Maize school board voted unanimously in February 2015 to terminate Ramon Mosate and in March 2015 to terminate his wife.

Higgins said the settlement payment, which the district received this week, is the result of years of work by law enforcement, attorneys and district officials.

“We didn’t just sit back and try to learn from it. Those aren’t the only actions we took,” he said.

“We put several procedures in place, but … you also try to recoup, especially when it’s taxpayer dollars. So we’ve been working on that legally since it started.”

Video courtesy of Hutton Construction and Maize South High School student Dominick Decker/Apollo Sky Films.

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias

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