DALLAS (CBS11) – An FBI financial investigator described in federal court Wednesday how he traced hundreds of thousands of dollars Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price allegedly moved around to conceal bribes and hide from the Internal Revenue Service.
The accountant, David Garcia, testified some of that money was funneled through a Forney bank account under Price’s mother’s name, Willie Faye Price.
Despite the mother’s name being on the account, John Wiley Price held the “signature card,” and the account went back to his home in South Dallas, Garcia said.
Testimony from Garcia and two FBI agents described a world of fast and expensive cars, custom-made suits and large wads of carry-around cash — a world much more extravagant than a person could afford on a public servant’s salary.
Noting the 14 custom-made suits found in Price’s closet during the 2011 execution of a search warrant, Agent Monica Segedy was asked whether that was “reasonable” on Price’s government salary of just over $100,000 a year.
But U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn struck the question as inadmissible before Segedy could answer.
FBI Agent Dianna Strain told the jurors about a Bentley Continental luxury car found during another FBI search of the home of Dapheny Fain, Price’s executive assistant and a co-defendant in the corruption trial.
After a long lunch recess, Judge Lynn announced one of the jurors had been released for health reasons, and replaced with an alternate juror.
The FBI’s accountant, Garcia, testified Price received multiple payments, some of which landed in his now-deceased mother’s account, from prominent political consultant Kathy Nealy, a co-defendant in the corruption case who will be tried separately.
Garcia said those cash payments totaled $450,000, growing to $950,000, the government said, when considering Nealy bought cars and land under her name, but on behalf of Price.
Price and Nealy are accused of conspiring to solicit money from businesses, in exchange for Price using his influence on the Dallas County Commissioners Court to award lucrative contracts for those companies.
The government has said those companies have not been charged with a crime because there is no evidence they knew Nealy was using their money to bribe Price.
Garcia said Price also received payments totaling $551,000 from his assistant, Fain, much of it in the form of her repaying a loan. But more than $100,000 came from Price’s partnership in Fain’s outside business, described as a “trinket shop,” that was never reported to the IRS, jurors were told.
Garcia also said Price received $110,000 from the sale of his private collection of African artwork, through a studio owned by friend Karen Manning, who has pleaded guilty to a lesser tax charge in the case.
FBI agent Aaron Covey said agents found $2,250 on Price, mostly in $100 bills, when, armed with a search warrant, they swarmed the Dallas County Administration Building on the morning of June 27, 2011.
Price showed up about 20 minutes after federal agents, and, while polite, “he was upset that we were there,” Covey said.
He also testified agents seized from the offices a large amount of documents, envelopes, files and some credit cards.
One of Price’s defense attorneys, Christopher Knox, suggested nothing sinister was found, pointing out a picture of the commissioner’s cluttered desk.
“It appears to be the desk of a busy person,” Knox said.
Fain’s lawyer, Thomas Mills, asked how the FBI entered her office since he believed it was locked.
Covey said he did not recall.
The trial, only in its fourth day, is expected to last as long as four months.