DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A federal affidavit disclosed on Thursday that the FBI seized more than $460,000, along with expensive watches and other fine jewelry, as part of its corruption investigation of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.
The seizures include $229,590 in $100 bills … bundled in bank bags, one marked “cheerleaders,” …that was taken from a safe in Price’s Oak Cliff home.
The feds confiscated another $230,763 which they said had been given to Price when he sold property at 7001 Grady Niblo Road to a North Texas developer.
All the cash came from a money laundering scheme, bankruptcy fraud or “theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds,” according to the affidavit filed by FBI Agent Donald Sherman, the lead investigator in the corruption case against Price and several of his associates.
Sherman said in the affidavit that the ill-gotten gains were largely made through a series of complicated bank transfers, real estate deals and other transactions, some of which involved legitimate – and unsuspecting – businesses.
Since 1995, “Price and others” have “commingled undisclosed and illegal income with legitimate income in order to make it more difficult to trace,” according to the affidavit.
It also questioned more than $500,000 in payments in “various forms” to Price from his long-time consultant, Kathy Nealy. Her company, the affidavit added, received more than $2 Million from other clients “with legislative or contractual matters under the jurisdiction or influence of the Dallas County Commissioners” Court.
Price is the longest serving member of the court.
He and his long-time executive assistant, Dapheny Fain, who is also mentioned in the investigation, have said through their attorneys that they have done nothing wrong.
On Thursday, officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Dallas declined to comment. Neither Price, nor his attorney Billy Ravkind, was available for comment.
The affidavit said Price described the $229,590 taken from his safe as coming from “legitimate businesses and business activity.”
Fain told authorities that $114,590 of that money was hers, and the affidavit quoted her as saying it came from “the legal proceeds of my business.”
Agent Sherman, in the affidavit, disagreed, saying there was a “multi-faceted conspiracy involving Price, Fain and others, whereby they conspired to commit laundering and to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity …”
Noting Price’s relatively average salary as a public servant, the affidavit cast a suspicious light on his seemingly extravagant lifestyle, including a half-million dollars in loans, gifts and payments from “a wealthy female friend.”
That money included $45,000 to help Price purchase a 2005 Bentley, one of several luxury cars mentioned in the court records.
The affidavit also accused Price of lying to the Internal Revenue Service and hiding assets from the IRS.
The FBI spent much of June 27, 2011 searching Price’s home and offices.
On that day, federal officials executed a search warrant at the 6th Floor Book Depository in downtown Dallas, the location of Dallas County Commissioners offices. Agents also searched the home of the District 3 commissioner, in Oak Cliff, gathering documents and property well into the evening.
The embattled commissioner easily defeated his three opponents in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for District 3.
According to the documents, Price and Fain “do not believe that the United States Attorney’s Office is trying to improperly influence the election process by filing the present civil action at this time.”
Last year CBS 11 News asked Price about the impact of the federal investigation and he said, “For 27 years I’ve represented my constituents and I plan on being around for the next 27 years. I have no idea what this is all about.”
The search warrants executed in June 2011 included everything from Price’s vehicles, to electronic storage devices – like personal computers, mobile phones, personal data assistants, iPhones, iPads, disks and thumb drives.
Federal documents filed for the search warrants alleged possible violations including theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal dollars; attempt to evade taxes; fraud and false statements; structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements; laundering of money instruments; and conspiracy.
In addition to search warrants issued relating to Price, federal investigators also had a June 2011 warrant to search Fain’s house in DeSoto.
Those searches were six years after the FBI raided Dallas City Hall in the city’s largest public corruption scandal. In that case, 16 people were indicted, convicted or pled guilty.
Price, who is known in District 3 as “Our Man Downtown,” has been in office since 1985.
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