Latest update 8:05 p.m.
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The FBI spent much of Monday searching Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price’s home and offices.
Everything began just after 9 a.m. when federal officials executed a search warrant at the 6th Floor Book Depository in downtown Dallas, which houses the offices of the Dallas County Commissioners. The agents left the District 3 commissioner’s home just after 7 p.m. that evening.
The federal documents allege 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.
Speaking from his attorney’s office late Monday afternoon, Price said he didn’t know until he got to work this morning that anything was going on and that the entire thing has taken him by surprise.
“I’d been to a meeting. I came in [and] there were individuals both on the bottom floor and on the second floor. And so, they had search warrants and I accommodated,” he said.
Federal investigators also had search warrants for Price’s home in Oak Cliff, the DeSoto house belonging to his assistant Dapheny Fain and other locations, personal and professional, linked to him.
Just before rush hour, CBS 11 News learned that three search warrants – two for Price’s cars and one for his person – concerned any electronic storage devices, including things like personal computers, mobile phones, personal data assistants, iPhones, iPads, disks and thumbdrives. The warrants covered all those items and computer cookies and passwords dating back to 2001, in addition to safety deposit box keys and sums of cash found worth $500 or more.
When asked about the impact of the federal investigation Price said, “I mean I’ve been up against this once before. This is not the first time I’ve been up against adversity, so I look forward to that day I court,” 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. I’ve seen the search warrants and that’s as far as it goes. I have not seen the affidavit. I have no clue as to where they’re going.”
Dallas County spokeswoman Maria Arita told CBS 11 News the Commissioner’s Court building has been closed to the public, with only county employees being allowed inside. Arita says there is no Commissioner’s Court business being conducted today.
By afternoon FBI agents were still at the scene and were busy taking photographs of two vehicles, a new BMW 650i convertible and a Chevrolet Avalanche SUV, in the parking lot of the Commissioners Court building. Both vehicles are registered to Price’s political consultant, Kathy Nealy. Federal investigators spent the better part of the day at Nealy’s Uptown office and Victory-area townhouse.
Nealy has long been considered the “go-to” political go-getter for garnering voters and election muscle in Dallas’ Southern Sector. Nealy was paid more than $250,000 this past year from Dallas’ new mayor, Mike Rawlings, for her work on his campaign.
She has also worked for Ron Kirk, Starke Taylor, and on the American Airlines Center campaign. No word from the FBI on how she’s involved or why they are interested in her vehicles and office.
The federal warrants concerned possible crimes including; Theft or Bribery Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds, Attempt To Evade or to Defeat Tax, Structuring Transactions to Evade Reporting Requirements and Laundering of Money Instruments.
CBS 11 News asked County Commissioner Maureen Dickey, whose had numerous political fights with Price, for her reaction to the FBI searches. “I think it’s a happy day for Dallas County,” she said. “Because it [the FBI actions] offers hope that there’s a higher authority than county people that will come in and see – check on things. [And] if there is wrongdoing, they will do something about it.”
The searches come six years after the FBI raided Dallas City Hall in the city’s largest public corruption scandal, in which 16 people were indicted, convicted or pled guilty.
Despite published reports, CBS 11 News has learned the offices of Mike Cantrell, Dallas County Commissioner District 2, have not been searched by the FBI. “I’m sitting in my office right now. I’ve had a staff person down in the administration building and nothing has been searched,” Cantrell told KRLD NewsRadio 1080.
Dallas County Commissioner Price has been a notable face in Dallas politics for more than 25 years.
Through the years Price has often found himself at the center of controversial incidents and volatile outbursts; with the most recent happening in February when he repeatedly told several residents attending a commissioner’s court meeting to “go to hell.”
The FBI wouldn’t comment as to why the various searches were being performed.
CBS 11 News has crews covering this story and will have more information as it becomes available.