DALLAS — FBI agents on Friday arrested Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and unsealed a criminal indictment naming three other co-defendants, ushering in a new chapter in what is arguably the most high-profile public corruption investigation in Dallas history.
Sarah Saldaña, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, announced the specific charges at an 11 a.m. news conference. She said for more than a decade, Price sold the power of his office for bribes in "a shocking betrayal of public trust."
A 106-page federal corruption indictment, filed under seal on July 23, is now public. It outlines a million dollar web of mail fraud, tax fraud, bribery and other malfeasance allegedly led by Price.
Also charged is Price's top assistant, Dapheny Fain, who surrendered to the FBI Friday morning, according to her attorney Tom Mills.
Political consultant Kathy Nealy, a close Price associate, is also a defendant in the case. Her attorney could not be reached. Nealy was expected to surrender Friday.
A fourth defendant, Christian Lloyd Campbell, is also charged. According to the indictment, he is a consultant who worked with Nealy. It's unclear if he is in custody.
Price was arrested at an office building north of downtown Dallas around 8 a.m.; it's unclear what he was doing there.
Price, Nealy, Fain and Campbell are expected to make initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Stickney Friday afternoon at the federal courthouse in downtown Dallas.
They are then expected to be released pending trial, which may not occur for a year or more.
In the indictment, the government says Price and his co-conspirators accepted $950,000 in bribes in exchange for Price voting favorably for companies bidding for get county contracts.
According to the government, here's how the scheme worked:
Nealy, a political consultant, worked on behalf of large companies seeking multi-million dollar contracts with Dallas County.
Nealy told those companies she could get them favorable votes at Commissioners Court. And that's exactly what they got from Price.
The government alleges that in exchange for bribes paid through Nealy, Price voted in favor of her clients. He also allegedly provided the businesses with confidential information that other bidders did not get.
In exchange for the votes, the government says Nealy funneled bribes to Price, many paid just before or after key votes. The indictment says Nealy also provided Price with cars, real estate and income from rental properties.
According to the government, these were large county contracts, with one set of companies getting up to $17.5 million in county business.
The government says Price, Nealy, and Price assistant Daphney Fain used 31 bank accounts in an effort to move money around in way that would not be detected.
Price is one of the most powerful politicians in North Texas. Since he was first elected in 1984 as Dallas County's first African American commissioner, Price has made a career out of vocal, forceful advocacy of minority issues. He also has close ties to some of Dallas business elite, giving him great power and influence.
Known by many of his constituents as "Our Man Downtown," Price resides over District 3, which encompasses West Dallas, downtown, and a wide swath of southeastern Dallas, Hutchins and Seagoville.
He's been under FBI scrutiny since at least the summer of 2011. That's when dozens of agents searched his home and office for evidence of corruption. Agents also searched the homes of Fain and Nealy.
During that search, FBI agents seized more than $229,000 in cash along with a collection of expensive watches from a safe in Price's Oak Cliff home across from Lake Cliff Park.
Agents seized an additional $230,000 from a Dallas County builder, who was set to pay that money to Price for the purchase of a then-vacant 9-acre tract of land at 7001 Grady Niblo Road in Dallas. That builder has since taken control of that property and has built an apartment complex on it.
In March 2012, federal prosecutors filed a civil forfeiture lawsuit to keep the cash from the safe and the land sale, alleging they were part of an illegal scheme. That forfeiture case was put on hold pending the criminal indictments.