The one thing they say about federal time: You do have to do it. The feds won't give you a get-out-of-jail-free card. But in 1998 when notorious Dallas real estate swindler Danny Faulkner talked his way out of the pen after serving only four years of a 20-year sentence, nobody was surprised.
You don't go from illiterate house painter to Rolls Royce-driving, helicopter-owning, charity-ball-hopping celebrity and then to the pen for 20 years without some kind of a mouth. Faulkner, central character in a massive 1980s land fraud, talked authorities into believing he was dying of cancer. Six months to live. Please. Have mercy.
Faulkner was so grateful and delighted to be released, when he got home he experienced a miraculous remission and lived another 13 years. He died last May of pneumonia.
When he got out of the pen in '98 and returned to Forney, a small town due east of the city, Faulkner still owned land around the county. But he had a problem. The feds had locked up all of his property with criminal forfeiture liens.
At the time he was sent to the pen, authorities estimated Faulkner had duped his victims out of $100 million or more. They wanted some of that back. What they did not want was Danny Faulkner parading around Dallas in another Rolls while his victims gnashed their teeth. So anything he sold, the money went to Uncle Sam. That was the theory.
One of the first people Faulkner got back in touch with when he came home was a man from Forney who also had done well for himself in the big city, his friend and protégé Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price. Price, too, had a problem.
Commissioner Price, often described by the media as the most powerful black elected official in Dallas, had filed for personal bankruptcy two years earlier, a move that would eventually allow him to stiff creditors for a total of $372,022.53, according to court documents filed in the feds' ongoing money laundering and corruption investigation of Price.
It took Price five years to get out of bankruptcy court, during which time he was expected by the court to live the life of an austere penny-pinching penitent. That was the theory.
The court documents filed by the FBI and Justice Department in the Price corruption probe dig way back into those supposedly lean years and show him putting $30,000 Jaguars under his court assistant's name, money into a checking account he opened in his mom's name, and land under other people's names.
If any of those actions were a crime, the five-year statute of limitations should have run out long ago, but the statute of limitations in bankruptcy law is complicated. For some reason, the FBI seems to believe delving back into all of this now is worth the effort.
Last year when the FBI raided Price's home and offices, I told a story here that I had heard bits and pieces of for years, about some acreage on Grady Niblo Road in West Dallas way out by Mountain Creek Lake. I related how one day in 2003 Price bought that land from a guy named Wayne White.
Then the same day he bought the same land again from Dapheny Fain, Price's own administrative assistant. Only there was no public record of her ever having owned it. And anyway he just bought it the same day from the other guy. And anyway ... well, you get the picture.
But that was all I knew. I interviewed White, an antiques dealer from Forney who rented space from Danny Faulkner. He was what I would call a very unenthusiastic interviewee, but he did say a few things. According to the FBI documents on file now, I believe the story White told me last year was ... how to put it? ... incomplete.
White told me he and his ex-wife owned the land on Grady Niblo. Price sort of showed up all of a sudden wanting to buy it. Well, first the busy commissioner showed up in White's antiques store wanting to play dominoes. Well, he wanted to get in on the regular dominoes game that White played with his landlord and buddy, Faulkner.
And just to move this story along, I would ask you to mentally pencil in at this point about 10 paragraphs of blah-blah-blah. Some of the blah-blah is quite colorful having to do with Price wanting White to sell the land to a guy involved in jailhouse corruption stories so Price could buy it from the jailhouse corruption guy but White just being too straight and honest a Scout to do a thing like that. What? Yeah, well. Eventually, White very reluctantly sells Price the land.
Naturally I ask why, him being reluctant and this being America, he sold to Price. He says: "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."