By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
But, as it turns out, it's a pretty sure bet that Lipscomb has been living off some of that stolen money, seeing as how his son-in-law has been supporting him since last fall, when Lipscomb Industries fell apart.
Lipscomb and Hoffman owed so much money to so many people that they were unable to find any chemical manufacturers to fill orders for Lipscomb Industries customers, who provided all that cash for Hoffman and Lipscomb to live on.
Enter Rod Dudley, husband of Lipscomb's 38-year-old daughter, Lavette.
Dudley, like Hoffman, saw the largely untapped potential in Lipscomb--a man who has never been in a financial jam that a benevolent white business leader with a pet project on the City Hall agenda couldn't get him out of.
So Dudley decided to make the chemicals Lipscomb could no longer buy--even though he had absolutely no experience in doing so. Sure enough, Lipscomb's City Hall benefactors again chipped in to help. Schepps Dairy CEO Pete Schenkel donated several huge, stainless-steel storage tanks, formerly used for milk, to mix the chemicals in. He also dispatched one of the dairy company's engineers to help the Lipscomb family figure out which end was up, tankwise. When the Dudleys got the chemical production going, they took the company checkbook from Hoffman, who promptly quit the business.
One night this past May, I sat with Lipscomb, his daughter, and his son-in-law in the Dudleys' extremely spacious home in Oak Cliff. With a backyard that backed up to one of the golf greens of the Oak Cliff Country Club, the white brick home, which had once belonged to a Dallas Cowboys football player, had long been Lavette's dream home, she told me.
Lipscomb and the Dudleys were meeting with me that night, ironically, to try to prove to me what a crook Roger Hoffman had been. As far as they were concerned, all of Lipscomb's current problems stemmed from Hoffman's unethical--if not illegal--behavior.
"He just doesn't want to do right," Lavette said at one point. "I think he just wants to steal."
Dudley chimed right in: "He's a thief--that's all he is," he said, looking straight at his father-in-law. "He's taken advantage of you for years."
At that time, of course, Dudley was allegedly carrying out a much more complex and insidious thieving scheme of his own--one that makes Roger Hoffman look like a small-time snake-oil salesman. According to the District Attorney's Office, the way Dudley's alleged scheme worked was that Dudley, who some years back was in the bail-bond business with his mother and brother, was in cahoots with a county employee who began cutting him checks for bond refunds he didn't deserve.
The refunds were supposed to go to people who had long ago come down to the Lew Sterrett Justice Center to bail their friends or family members out of jail. They were cash bonds for misdemeanor crimes--mainly small bonds for $200 to $500--and the county employee, Carol Jackson, simply made the refund checks out to Dudley, got them signed by an unsuspecting clerk in a criminal court upstairs, and then mailed or handed the checks over to Dudley.
Jackson allegedly picked bonds that had been sitting around unredeemed for as long as 10 years, lessening the chances that the intended recipients--who either didn't know or simply forgot they were owed the money--would ever apply for the money. Since all the checks were made out to Dudley, it's unclear--at least to people outside the District Attorney's Office--what Jackson got out of the deal, though her fellow employees like to point out that she's the only clerk they know who drives a Lexus to work.
The district attorney apparently can prove that Dudley was getting about 20 checks a month, starting in January 1994--perhaps earlier--and continuing right up until the net dropped on Dudley and Jackson last month. So far, an investigation has uncovered checks totaling more than $140,000.
Dudley and Jackson both face prison time, if convicted, but Jackson, who has no prior record, would be eligible for probation. Not so for Dudley. He would be looking at a minimum of 15 years in the pen. Why? Because the 44-year-old served three years of a 10-year sentence for robbing someone at gunpoint 20 years ago back in his hometown of San Antonio.
Shortly after our evening interview at his house, I asked Dudley about his ignominious past, which I had uncovered in some Bexar County court documents. Those dark days were but a distant memory, Dudley assured me.
"I was a hard-headed little guy," he told me. "Nobody could tell me. I was the second-oldest. My oldest brother went to college--I didn't; I went into the service. Had trouble in the service...started rolling downhill. When I went to jail, and I had my freedom taken from me--and I had a son 3 years old, now 23--and I put my hand on the glass window, I couldn't touch them. My family said someone would come every two weeks to be with me, and they came. From Dallas, San Antonio, Houston. The guards at Huntsville said, 'Why the hell are you here?' It kind of touched me. After you miss enough Christmases, holidays, birthdays, and you're celebrating with inmates and not families, it makes a hell of an impression on you."