The art of the plea

Friends and business associates of Henry Billingsley say the son-in-law of developer Trammell Crow has always relished the sheer drama and mystery of high-stakes deal-making.

"Henry, intellectually, likes to cross swords," Randy Dumas, a London investment banker, once told the Dallas Observer.

Last week, Billingsley made what could be regarded as one of the most significant deals of his life, though he held no winning cards in the negotiations.

The 52-year-old real-estate developer accepted a plea bargain from the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington, pleading guilty to helping a Libyan official illegally enter the United States in 1992. Billingsley admitted he helped sneak the Libyan official into this country to discuss a land deal.

U.S. sanctions imposed in 1986, after Libya refused to extradite two Libyan intelligence agents indicted in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, bar all trade with the Middle Eastern country or its citizens.

"I made an error for which I am genuinely sorry," Billingsley said in a terse statement issued from his office after the plea bargain.

In a December 1994 cover story, "The Crow-Qadhafi connection," the Observer revealed Billingsley's contacts with the Libyan government and his long-term efforts to enter into business deals with Libyans.

Billingsley faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines for unlawful transportation of an alien. Prosecutors have said they will seek prison time for the son-in-law of one of Dallas' most prominent developers.

During the hearing at which he entered his plea, Billingsley admitted that, in October 1992, he met Mohamed Bukhari, a Libyan treasury secretary, at the Hotel Residencial in Matamoros, Mexico. Billingsley gave Bukhari phony identification documents. The next day, Billingsley admitted, he drove Bukhari over the U.S. border, and flew with him from Harlingen to Dallas--all the while knowing the Libyan official had been denied a visa to enter this country.

Also in the car with Billingsley and Bukhari was William Bodine, a former school chum and business associate of the Crow son-in-law. Bodine has pleaded guilty to unlawfully accepting funds from the Libyan government, and is currently serving a 21-month sentence in federal prison.


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