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Ex-schools chief pleads guilty



Published: Fri, October 27, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Engle denies making betting-related calls from the schools.

By D.A. WILKINSON

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

LISBON -- Former Salem schools Superintendent Randy Engle pleaded guilty to a felony charge of gambling for running a bookmaking operation and will forfeit $100,000 in illegal earnings.

Engle, 59, of Ridge Road, Salem, said in court late Thursday, "I broke the law. I apologize."

Under the plea agreement, approved in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court, Engle will cooperate with authorities in the prosecution of those who helped with the bookmaking operation.

Engle retired from the school district in December 1999.

County Prosecutor Robert Herron estimated that fewer than 10 people would face misdemeanor charges. Herron said people who placed bets will not face charges.

Part of larger investigation

The investigation is a continuation of a gambling probe in late 2004 in Stark and Mahoning counties. Engle was charged with 19 first-degree misdemeanor counts of gambling. In Alliance Municipal Court, he received suspended jail sentences and fines but paid court costs.

The educator could get up to a year in prison on the fifth-degree felony. But as part of the plea agreement, Herron is recommending Engle spend 120 days in jail.

Engle also will forfeit $100,000 to the state in gambling income from 2002 to 2004.

Herron said forfeiture of other money from the gambling ring is barred by the statute of limitations.

The operation ran for more than 15 years, and Herron said Engle was the brains behind the operation.

When asked if Engle ever conducted operations from the schools, Herron said, "He denies that." Engle declined to talk to reporters.

'Drove a route'

But the educator, who has a doctorate, regularly "drove a route" picking up money and betting slips and setting the odds on games, Herron said.

Engle was also laying off bets to reduce his financial risk with another betting operation. The prosecutor said the investigation since the 2004 arrests showed betting went into Stark, Portage, and Mahoning counties.

In Salem, bets were being made in bars and fraternal organizations. Herron said there was a culture in the city that accepted the betting as harmless.

"There was a large group willing to accept this," Herron said.

The attitude was that the betting was just between friends and that no one was making any money, he added.

wilkinson@vindy.com




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