The story of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price runs deep. The FBI's investigation of Price will carry the feds back into local ancient history, according to the documents on my desk.
Before the feds are done they'll be looking at everybody from recently slain Dallas police Officer Norm Smith to the late Jack Madera, who ran the commissary at the county jail, all the way back to Danny Faulkner, the illiterate house-painter who rose to the top of the local business pyramid in the 1980s before being sent to prison.
If nothing else, the documents tell a story that gives interesting flavor and context to the commissioner's current imbroglio. And before I go farther, let me hasten to say that the role of Norm Smith, a revered martyr, was innocent and for the good.
According to the county land records I'm looking at, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price bought nine acres of land on Grady Niblo Road near Mountain Creek Lake in far southwest Dallas from a man named Wayne White on September 3, 2002.
But here's the curious thing. On that very same day he bought the very same land from his own administrative assistant, Dapheny Fain.
Wait. How can you buy the same land from two different people on the same day? That's the question. Earlier today I left messages by phone and by email with both Price and Fain and did not hear back from them personally. I did speak with attorneys for both.
Price's criminal attorney, Bill Ravkind, told me he has "more than two" CPAs combing through all of the commissioner's real estate transactions over the years. He said he is not able to address questions about any specific transactions yet.
I spoke with Wayne White, who sold the land to Price, and I can understand why Ravkind might want to take his time unraveling this and other deals the commissioner has been involved in.
White is an antiques dealer who once rented space from Danny Faulkner, a legendary figure in the history of Dallas real estate and banking scams. Faulkner was released from prison in 1998 suffering from what was supposed to have been inoperable brain cancer, now in remission. He had served three years and 11 months of a 20-year federal sentence for stealing $100 million from five savings and loans.
Not long after his release, Faulkner was back in business, renting space on Highway 80 east of town to White.
"The way I met John Wiley Price," White told me, "I was renting a building from Danny, selling antiques, and John Wiley pulled up one day. I was playing dominoes with Danny, and I said, 'Hey, I don't want this scumbag coming in my shop.'
"Danny said, 'Oh, you're supposed to be a Christian, Wayne?' I said, 'I am, but this guy's nothing but trouble, Danny.' He said, 'Oh, he's a pretty nice guy.'
"So John came in there. Danny's stupid. He said, 'Oh, you know what Wayne did when you pulled up?' He [Price] said, 'Well, when you get to know me, I think you'll change your mind.'
"So he [Price] was real nice, coming out to my shop on Sundays, talking to me and playing dominoes like that, but his whole motive was to get the land."
White says his understanding was that Faulkner was under court order to sell land as part of his restitution requirement in the federal case. I have a document showing Faulkner sold the property in question on Niblo Road to White in March 1999.
But now the cast of characters comes into play. White says Price wanted his land, but he wanted White to sell the land to the late Jack Madera, who operated jailhouse food concessions all over Texas. Former Dallas County Sheriff Jim Bowles bit the political dust in 2007 over gifts he had received from Madera when Madera was running the Dallas County jail concession.
"He [Price] wanted me to sell that land to him [Price], and he wanted me to put it in a guy named Jack Madera's name."
White says his friend, Officer Smith told him to steer clear: "A friend of mine, Norm Smith, who got killed, a police friend, said, 'Man, don't sell anything to Jack Madera. He's in charge of the commissary down at the jail.'
"I said [to Price], 'I ain't selling it to that guy. I don't know him, and if you're buying it, you're buying it."
White says Price backed off for a while but then came back again and again, pressuring White to sell. "I bought it from Faulkner, and I was trying to keep it. But Price wanted it for himself."
White says Price played White off against White's ex-wife, who co-owned the land with him. "He went through a three-year, four-year harassment, trying to get us to sell it, either by telling my ex-wife, 'I'm worried about Wayne, he might sell the property,' and telling me the same thing about her."
I asked White why he finally sold to Price.
"This guy's a scumbag with all kinds of pressure he can put on you," White said. "It will all come out what kind of person he is. He's just a con man. The only thing I want to say for him, you can print it, he's a Chicago politician in Texas."
I asked White if he had any idea why or how a recorded Dallas County deed had come into being showing his property as being conveyed from Dapheny Fain, Price's county administrative assistant, to Price, when White had sold the land directly to Price that same day.
"Same way those car titles did, I guess," he said, referring to a series of questionable car purchases by Price that have been in the news. "I guess he has some way of doing it like he did those car titles.
"The only thing I can tell you is, I don't know how he did, how he was able to. He did it."
Ravkind, Price's attorney, told me today: "We are having forensic people that I am paying for go through every one of his real estate transactions from start to finish to determine what they were, who was involved, how much money was involved, was it properly handled or any other question you can ask. I don't know the answer to that yet. I know what the explanations are. That's what we are doing as we speak."
I also spoke with Tom Mills, attorney for Dapheny Fain, who said that he was engaged in research as well and would not comment until that work was completed.
(One thing Ravkind's "forensic people" will likely be dealing with also is the more than $100,000 in cash FBI agents removed from a safe in Price's home, according to this story on NBC DFW, Channel 5.)Wayne White Land Transaction With JWPDapheny Fain Land Transaction With JWP
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