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What Led Up to John Wiley Price's Arrest Friday? Here's A Look

Bill Zeeble
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, emerging from Dallas' federal courthouse, where he pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, fraud and other charges

Dallas County’s longest serving, most controversial and only African American Commissioner, John Wiley Price, was arrested and named in a 13-count indictment today alleging conspiracy, bribery, and fraud. Three co-defendants were also named. A three-year investigation led up to Friday’s arrest. What started it? Here’s a look.

On June 27, 2011, the FBI launched a surprise raid on Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price’s home, vehicles, and county offices. The bureau seized boxes of documents and cash. The warrant also sought valuables like wrist watches.  

“ I had been to a meeting,” Price explained, “I came in, there were individuals both on the bottom floor and the second floor. They had search warrants. And so I accommodated.”

In the office of his attorney, Billy Ravkind, Price said he had no idea what the raid was about. The warrant listed no allegations.

“I’ve been up against this before,” Price said. “This is not the first time I’ve been up against adversity. I look forward to that day in court.”

 The FBI also searched homes and offices of Price’s long-time County assistant Dapheny Fain and political consultant Kathy Nealy. The bureau took a safe with nearly $250,000 in cash from Price’s home. Eleven months later, in May of 2012, a lengthy affidavit cited a laundry list of crimes Price may have committed, including theft, bribery, and influence-peddling. It’s believed those documents, and cash from the safe helped form those allegations, especially after Price argued he should get that cash back.

Credit Bill Zeeble / KERA News
Dapheny Fain, Price's Chief of Staff, faces two counts in the 13-count indictment against Commissioner Price, Kathy Nealy, and Christian Campbell

The affidavit also suggested Price took money for votes and laundered cash through businesses Fain and Nealy owned. In one instance, the FBI presented a time line of financial transactions suggesting influence peddling. Documents showed Fain and Nealy may have illegally helped Price secure expensive cars and property, and also commit bankruptcy fraud. Most of that information reappears in today’s 107-page indictment.

To Price’s many supporters in southern Dallas,, like Betty Frank,  the Commissioner has done nothing wrong.

“He’s honest,” Frank says. “He speaks what he thinks.”

And no matter how much the FBI evidence suggests, she’s reluctant to change her mind.

 “That federal investigation,” Frank says, “I think is a bunch of malarkey. But then again I might be wrong, I don't know.  But you know, it’s like this. Every time you got somebody doing a job, somebody’s going to find something wrong with it.”

Credit Bill Zeeble / KERA News
Federal authorities outlining the 13-count indictment against Commissioner Price and three co-defendants. l-r Kelly Carpenter, Asst Special Agent, IRS, Sarah Saldana, US Attorney, Diego Rodriguez, Special Agent In Charge, FBI

Clearly, prosecutors have. A final verdict could come in the federal trial that may be a year or more away. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.