Major Political Corruption Bust in Dallas
DALLAS (CN) - Longtime Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price was arrested Friday, accused of taking bribes for supporting bids on lucrative county contracts, in one of the highest-profile government corruption investigations in Dallas history.
The 107-page federal indictment includes 13 counts, against Price 64; political consultant Kathy Nealy, 61; Price chief of staff Dapheny Fain, 52, and political consultant Christian Campbell, 44.
Known as "Our Man Downtown" by his constituents in south Dallas, Price has been in office since 1985. He ran unchallenged in 2012 and was re-elected though the FBI's investigation against him was made public after more than $460,000 in assets were seized from him earlier in the year.
Price and Nealy were each charged with conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; conspiracy to defraud the IRS; and six counts of deprivation of honest services by mail fraud.
Price was charged with three counts of subscribing to a false and fraudulent income tax return.
Nealy was charged with tax evasion.
Fain was charged with conspiracy to defraud the IRS, and of making a false statement.
Campbell was charged with conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits.
All four pleaded not guilty Friday afternoon and were released on personal recognizance bonds.
After the indictment was unsealed Friday morning, U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldana said that "abuse of public trust cannot and will not be tolerated."
"For more than a decade, in a shocking betrayal of public trust, Commissioner Price sold his office on the Dallas County Commissioners Court in exchange for a steady stream of bribes," Saldana said at a press conference.
"While the vast majority of public officials are honest and maintain high ethical standards, it is unfortunate that some, as alleged in this indictment, choose to serve themselves."
Prosecutors claim that from January 2001 to June 2011, Price pocketed more than $950,000 in cash, cars and real estate from Nealy in exchange for his influence on the Commissioners Court to help her clients and Campbell's.
The money - averaging $5,000 to $10,000 per month - were never reported on Price's tax returns or state-mandated financial disclosure statements that he signed under oath, Saldana said.
"Nealy obtained lobbying or consulting agreements with businesses seeking contracts with Dallas County or had other business matters in Dallas County on which the Commissioners Court voted," the July 23 indictment states. "These businesses knew that Nealy had access to and influence with Price. At some point, these businesses would hire Nealy, and through Nealy, they would obtain inside information about competitors' bids and other strategically helpful information, which they used to pursue and obtain lucrative contracts with Dallas County."
Nealy arranged meetings or dinners with Price for her clients, which often took place during periods where contact with elected officials are banned because the selection process for bids on county contracts were in progress, the indictment states.
The businesses paid Nealy for the duration of their dealings with the county so Price could continue to act in their favor, including refraining from voting against them, the indictment states.
Price is accused of accepting bribes of more than $447,000 in money, a new Chevrolet Avalanche every four years and a BMW 645Ci convertible that cost $191,000 to buy and insure.
More than $198,000 in real estate was "secretly funneled" from Nealy to Price, who served as a straw purchaser, according to the indictment.
"Nealy would transfer money from her accounts to Price's accounts and write checks payable to (a) financial institutions at which Price held accounts; (b) to herself, which Nealy then endorsed and gave to Price, sometimes with 'salary' written in the memo line; and (c) directly to Price, with various notations in the memo line in an effort to conceal the true illegal purpose of such payments," the indictment states. "Nealy wrote such checks from nine different businesses, personal and investment accounts ... in an effort to conceal the volume and dollar value of the checks she provided to Price."
Prosecutors claim Price also failed to report income from his secret businesses, such as Man Male Sales, which purportedly was operated by Fain.
Prosecutors said at the press conference that Price filed false tax returns for 2007, 2008 and 2009 and that Fain falsely denied to federal agents his involvement with Man Male Sales.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of deprivation of honest services by mail fraud and aiding and abetting; 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits, conspiracy to defraud the IRS, attempting to evade or defeat payment of tax, and making a false statement; and 3 years and a $250,000 fine for subscribing to a false and fraudulent income tax return.