Saturday, July 26, 2014
Dallas County Commissioner Charged With Taking Nearly $1 Million In Bribes
Federal authorities charged a long-time Dallas County commissioner, John Wiley Price (D), with multiple corruption charges yesterday after a lengthy, 3-year long FBI investigation. Federal prosecutors charged Price with scheming with two business associates to amass nearly $1 million in cash payments, automobiles and land as part of an influence-peddling scheme that extended for more than a decade. Price is accused of being the mastermind of the criminal enterprise whereby vendors and businesses would hire Kathy Nealy, a lobbyist and friend of Price, to help win favorable action from Price in his official capacity as a Dallas County commissioner. Charges against Price include conspiracy to commit bribery, honest services fraud and income tax evasion. “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,” U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldaña said in a news conference Friday morning. The text of the indictment against Price and his co-defendants can be viewed by clicking here.
What is interesting about yesterday's charges is the fact that the largest beneficiaries of the bribery scheme do not face charges. Federal prosecutors allege that particular minority subcontractors specified by Price were included in contracts awarded to other vendors. A Dallas art gallery owner, Karen Manning, allegedly schemed to help Price launder his money. Price also allegedly co-owned a business with political consultant Dapheny Fain, who was charged along with Nealy, called Male Man Sales, which allowed Price free use of a credit card to the tune of more than $133,000. Nealy acted as a straw purchaser for several pieces of real estate property valued at several hundred thousand dollars that were funneled to Price, and she provided him several luxury automobiles to drive. Nealy would also transfer money directly to Price or endorse checks made out to her to him according to the federal complaint.
One of the largest beneficiaries of the scheme was Schlumberger Ltd., an international IT company that was awarded a contract worth $43 million. Federal authorities allege that Schlumberger hired Nealy as a lobbyist, who would arrange secret meetings or obtain insider information about the procurement process for her client to get an edge in the bidding process. Identified as "Business S" in the complaint, Nealy was paid by Schlumberger more than $250,000 for providing consulting services, a large part of which Nealy kick backed to Price. After Atos Origin, a large international IT company later acquired Schlumberger, Price allegedly advocated on its behalf to continue receiving contracts from the county. A company owned by billionaire Ross Perot, Hillword Corp., hired Nealy to help win a Federal Trade Zone designation, which Price supported while opposing an application by a competing company.
Although Price has been very popular in Dallas' African-American community, he has been a very polarizing political figure who is not ashamed to express his disdain for whites. Nonetheless, some of Dallas' most wealthy and influential wooed him. Ross Perot, Jr. contributed nearly $10,000 to Price in recent years. Perot hired Price's friend, Karen Manning, to participate in design work for the W Hotel he developed in Dallas. In this video below, Price can be seen telling a number of white citizens who appeared before a commissioner's meeting to "go to hell" because they are white. Many in Dallas' black community told reporters they believe Price is being targeted because he's black. The Dallas Morning News noted in its story that Price is just one of a string of mostly African-American politicians charged with public corruption by Obama-run Justice Department in recent years. The newspaper noted that some of those prominent white business officials not named in yesterday's indictments could be charged as more facts are developed during Price's trial.
In another exchange captured on video, Price is seen going on an expletive-filled tirade at a public meeting after a disagreement with a fellow commissioner.