DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The defense scored points today in getting an FBI financial investigator to admit the feds, in the past, were “jumping the gun” in deciding to indict Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and his friend, political consultant Kathy Nealy, for tax evasion and public corruption.
For two days, David Garcia told jurors how he traced more than a million dollars through a maze of questionable bank transactions, linking them to Price, Nealy and the commissioner’s executive assistant, Daphney Fain, in what the FBI says was a conspiracy to hide bribes and cheat the Internal Revenue Service.
But when cross-examined by Price’s lawyer, Shirley Baccus-Lobel, Garcia acknowledged he received an email in 2006 from then-FBI Agent Don Sherman, the lead investigator in the case, in which Sherman said, “We’ll indict Price and Nealy later on.”
Garcia also admitted he was only in the early stages of his investigation when he received the email, and another one sent around the same time referencing Sherman’s “long-standing interest in Mr. Price.”
“In fairness, isn’t that kind of jumping the gun?” Baccus-Lobel asked.
“Yes,” Garcia said.
It was the first crack the defense had with Garcia, who was on the witness stand for two days for the government, detailing a dizzying trail of dollars that he said passed through the hands of Price, Nealy and Fain, with the commissioner getting the biggest payouts.
Garcia said Nealy was paid more than $1 million from seven companies seeking lucrative contracts with the county during an eight-year period, from 2002 to 2010.
Nealy then passed on more than $458,000 of that amount to Price, in the form of bribes, so that the commissioner would exert his political influence to secure those contracts for the companies, the government alleges.
The FBI said the corporations were not aware that their money was being used illegally, and only thought Nealy was especially good at her job.
Garcia said some money was funneled through a company owned by Dapheny Fain, Price’s executive assistant for the county who is also charged in the federal corruption case.
Jurors were told Price received more than $551,000 through his connections with Fain’s business, a “trinket shop” known as Mail Man Sales, or MMS. The money, the government has said, was never reported to the IRS.
Price is also accused of not reporting a total of more than $380,000, in cash alone, from Fain, Nealy and Dallas art dealer Karen Manning, who has pleaded guilty to a lesser tax charges in exchange for her expected testimony in Price and Fain’s ongoing trial.
Nealy is scheduled for trial at a later date.