Domino No. 2 in the City Hall Corruption Case Falls: Andrea Spencer Pleas Guilty to Bribery Conspiracy
This just in from the U.S. Attorney's Office: Andrea Spencer, among those named by the feds in the low-income housing development corruption case at Dallas City Hall, pleaded guilty this morning in a federal courtroom to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits. Spencer was among the 14 folks named in the 31-count indictment handed down in October, which named, of course, Don Hill, D'Angelo Lee, Brian Potashnik, Terri Hodge and others. Also named was Allen McGill, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion. From the media release, which contains a lengthy narrative and follows in full after the jump:
According to documents filed in court today, Spencer admitted that she knowingly and willfully combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed with co-defendants D'Angelo Lee, Ron Slovacek and others, in a transaction and series of transactions, to corruptly offer, give and agree to give something of value of $5,000 or more to a person, in connection with any business, transaction, and series of transactions of the City of Dallas, with intent to influence and reward an agent of local government.It takes six paragraphs before you will find the names Don Hill and Sheila Farrington. Before the jump, here's Spencer's plea agreement and account of events. She is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn on August 13. --Robert Wilonsky
ANOTHER DEFENDANT PLEADS GUILTY IN BRIBERY AND EXTORTION SCHEME
DALLAS - Andrea L. Spencer, 33 of Dallas, pled guilty this morning before U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn, to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits, announced U.S. Attorney Richard B. Roper of the Northern District of Dallas. Spencer faces a maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution. She is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Lynn on August 13, 2008.
According to documents filed in court today, Spencer admitted that she knowingly and willfully combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed with co-defendants D'Angelo Lee, Ron Slovacek and others, in a transaction and series of transactions, to corruptly offer, give and agree to give something of value of $5,000 or more to a person, in connection with any business, transaction, and series of transactions of the City of Dallas, with intent to influence and reward an agent of local government.
In April 2004, Spencer, who was a co-owner of Trinity Signature Homes LLC (TSH) and Article IV Development, met co-defendant Ron Slovacek, who was doing business as Millennium Land Development. Slovacek owned some residential building lots in Rockwall, Texas that Spencer and her business partner wanted to purchase and she, along with her business partner and a third person, formed Vision Planning and Development (Vision) to purchase the lots. TSH and Vision entered into a contract to purchase the Rockwell lots from Millennium Land Development for approximately $2 million and paid Slovacek $60,000 in earnest money. After their initial investor backed out of the transaction, Spencer and her business partner met co-defendants D'Angelo Lee, Rick Robertson and Jibreel Rashad, who represented themselves as experienced builders who owned a company together and had sufficient funds to close the deal with Slovacek. Ultimately, when the group was unable to obtain the requisite financing, the deal fell through and Spencer and her business partner lost their earnest money. D'Angelo Lee told Spencer he was sorry that she lost her earnest money and that he was going to talk to Slovacek about it, but Slovacek did not return the funds.
Several months later, in or about September 2004, Lee called Spencer and her business partner regarding an opportunity to bid on some individual lots, but did not provide any specific details. Lee mentioned, however, that he had been talking to Slovacek. Approximately two weeks later, Lee asked Spencer whether any of her businesses were minority certified. Spencer informed Lee that TSH and Article IV were not, but that another one of her businesses, Lynnea Consulting Group (LCG), was minority certified. Lee told Spencer that she could use that business to bid on projects as a general contractor and subcontract the work to someone else at a profit of $50,000 - $60,000 per contract. Lee said this was a way Spencer could recover some of the earnest money she and her business partner lost on the Rockwall lots. At this time, Lee told Spencer that he was a city plan commissioner and implied he had a bid package for her, but didn't mention any specific projects.
In October 2004 Lee called Spencer about bidding on a specific project-Southwest Housing Development Corporation, Inc.'s (SWH) Arbor Woods multifamily affordable housing development in South Dallas. Lee told Spencer that Slovacek was bidding on some concrete contracts and that, if she acted as the general contractor and subcontracted the work to Slovacek, she could get some of her earnest money back. Lee said he was offering this opportunity to Spencer because he thought highly of her and it would look better to have a minority on the contract. Lee also said that he told Brian Potashnik to award the contract to Spencer. As the conversation continued, Lee brought in Slovacek on a three-way call. Both Lee and Slovacek told Spencer that this was a good way for her to get some experience and to use her minority certification. Slovacek said that he had already prepared a bid for the concrete work on Arbor Woods and that he would email it to Spencer so that she could put it on her company's letterhead. Lee and Slovacek told Spencer that she would make approximately $40,000 by acting as the general contractor on the deal.
Shortly thereafter, around October 17, 2004, Lee invited Spencer to have coffee with him at a Starbucks coffee shop to discuss a matter unrelated to the Arbor Woods bid. When Spencer arrived, Lee was there with co-defendants Don Hill and Sheila Farrington. Lee introduced Hill as the "deputy mayor" and Farrington as a campaign worker. When Lee introduced Spencer to Hill and Farrington, he said that Spencer was a residential builder and consultant, and added, "This is the one I was talking about." After the introductions, Lee and Spencer went to another table.
On October 27, 2004, Slovacek emailed his concrete bid for Arbor Woods to Spencer and instructed her to edit the header to insert her company's name and certification number and then to print, sign and fax the bid to Affordable Housing Construction as soon as possible. Because Spencer and her business partner were both interested in the Arbor Woods contract initially, Spencer put the bid on Article IV's letterhead, but used LCG's minority certification number. Later, when Spencer's business partner withdrew from the deal, Spencer listed LCG Development Group, not Article IV, as the general contractor on the Arbor Woods contracts.
In early November 2004, Lee, Slovacek and Spencer met at Taco Diner. During the meeting, Lee invited Spencer to Don Hill's birthday party, which was scheduled for later that evening. Lee named numerous people who were going to attend the party and the amounts of money they were giving. Lee asked Slovacek to make a $1,500 contribution and told Slovacek that he needed the money by the next day. Before going to Hill's party, Slovacek went to his office to get a check. At the party, Slovacek pointed out certain people to Spencer, including Brian Potashnik and Jack Potashnik. Slovacek told Spencer that the Potashniks owned SWH and were involved in the award of the Arbor Woods concrete subcontracts.
In early December 2004, Lee and Slovacek asked Spencer to meet with Brian Potashnik. Lee referred to Brian Potashnik as a "good friend" and "my boy." Slovacek and Spencer went to SWH's offices and met with Brian Potashnik and Kent Plemons, the head of SWH's construction business, Affordable Housing Construction (Affordable). During the meeting, Potashnik and Plemons asked questions of Slovacek only and told Slovacek to meet with Matt Martin, also of Affordable, regarding the contract. According to Spencer, it was obvious that she did not serve any real purpose at the meeting. Spencer came to know, based on a conversation with Matt Martin, that Brian Potashnik ordered Affordable to award the concrete contract to her company, LCG, as opposed to a lower-bidding qualified subcontractor. Spencer understood that she received the contract because Lee told Potashnik to award it to her.
On December 22, 2004, and on January 7, 2005, Spencer signed contracts with Affordable in the amounts of $741,000 and $58,500, respectively, to perform concrete work at Arbor Woods. Affordable paid Spencer and Slovacek their draws on these contracts by checks made payable to both LCG and RON-SLO in the amounts below:
Date Check No. Amount
2/28/05 28783 $54,630
3/29/05 29132 $41,580
3/29/05 29133 $140,310
5/4/05 29434 $106,470
5/23/05 29710 $12,766
5/23/05 29711 $276,134
Typically, Spencer and Slovacek endorsed the checks and Slovacek deposited them into his RON-SLO account. Later, Slovacek told Spencer that he had to pay 10 percent of the draws to Lee and that such monies had to be factored into the bids that Lee helped them get. Lee would often call Brian Potashnik to inquire when Affordable was going to issue Spencer and Slovacek's check, 10 percent of which Spencer understood was going to be paid to Lee.
In early January 2005, Lee began pressing Spencer and Slovacek to submit bids for concrete work on two other SWH developments, Rosemont at Laureland (Laureland) and Rosemont at Scyene (Scyene). Lee and Slovacek worked on the bids and forwarded them to Spencer to submit to Affordable. In late February or early March 2005, Spencer became aware that, when preparing bids on SWH projects, Slovacek reviewed bids that Affordable had received from competing bidders. Lee obtained the competing bids from Brian Potashnik. Slovacek told Spencer that, upon reviewing the competing bids, he prepared LCG's bid and factored in Lee's 10 percent. In reference to LCG's bid numbers, Lee told Spencer, "Potashnik knows I need to get paid." Lee talked about money frequently, including his desire to earn one million dollars. Lee told Spencer that his position on the City Plan and Zoning Commission was voluntary and without pay and that, even though the city thought he was not supposed to make any money, he had to make some money out of the deals. Lee told Spencer that he could not vote on the projects on which he was bidding.
On April 11, 2005, Slovacek emailed concrete bids to Spencer for both Laureland and Scyene and told her to change the headings and addresses on the bids from RON-SLO to LCG. The following week, on April 19, 2005, Lee told Spencer and Slovacek to call Matt Martin at Affordable to find out whether the bid numbers needed to be adjusted.
On April 22, 2005, Lee instructed Spencer to email the Laureland and Scyene concrete bids to Brian Potashnik. Several days later, on April 26, 2005, Spencer, Slovacek, Lee and Hill participated in a conference call to discuss the bids. Hill told Lee, Slovacek and Spencer to keep the bids at the "higher number" because Brian Potashnik was asking for another favor. According to Spencer, it became clear that Hill and Lee were seeking money from Potashnik in exchange for a favorable vote at the Dallas City Council. During that call, Brian Potashnik called Lee on another line. Lee told Hill, Slovacek and Spencer that, in a few minutes, he was going to return Potashnik's call and have a conversation with him about "the fee." When Lee said he was going to go "head-to-head" with Potashnik about keeping the bids high because Potashnik was asking for another favor from Hill, Hill told Lee, "No, no, you're not gonna go head-to-head ... you're gonna, you're gonna reason and you gonna make sense to everybody." Lee responded, "Yes, sir. It's like, the Councilman has spoken."
On April 28, 2005, Slovacek and Spencer learned that Affordable had awarded the Laureland and Scyene concrete subcontracts to a lower bidder. Despite this knowledge, Lee instructed Spencer to continue sending bids to Affordable. On May 13, 2005, Spencer emailed revised concrete bids for Laureland and Scyene to Matt Martin at Affordable and copied Brian Potashnik on the email. Shortly thereafter, however, Lee told Slovacek and Spencer that Hill wanted them to stop pursuing those concrete subcontracts. It was Spencer's intent to make money off of any future contracts she and Slovacek received from SWH.
In January 2005, Lee, Spencer and Slovacek became equal partners in Kiest Blvd., L.P. (Kiest Blvd.) and The LKC Dallas (The LKC), two for-profit entities they created to purchase and develop real estate, with the understanding that such entities would benefit from the official assistance of Hill and Lee. Kiest Blvd. was formed to purchase and develop approximately 37 acres of property near the intersection of Kiest Boulevard and Southerland Avenue, known as Cedar Crest Square. Lee's interest in Kiest Blvd. was hidden. The LKC was formed to purchase and develop property in the Lancaster Kiest Corridor. Lee's interest in The LKC was selectively disclosed.
On November 12, 2004, Lee and Slovacek called Spencer and asked her to help Slovacek put together an application for bond funds for Cedar Crest Square. They asked Spencer for single-family residence floor plans that she had from previous work. That same day, she took the floor plans to Slovacek's office, where they inserted them into a bond application package. Immediately afterwards, Slovacek and Spencer rushed the application package to City Hall to meet the bond application deadline.
Upon submission of Kiest Blvd.'s application to the City of Dallas, personnel with the City's Housing Department met with Slovacek and Spencer regarding the application. When Lee and Spencer discussed the meeting, Lee told Spencer it was a good sign.
On February 4, 2005, Lee, Spencer and Slovacek met with two bankers in an effort to obtain bank financing for Cedar Crest Square. Lee told the bankers that the City of Dallas had already committed funds to the project, even though the City had not yet done so. In late February 2005, Lee informed Slovacek and Spencer about the City's award of more than $1 million in general obligation bond funds and residential development acquisition loan program monies for Cedar Crest Square, exclaiming, "It's done!" Lee had a copy of the City Council's agenda items and instructed Spencer to tell Hill's assistant to fax a copy of the items, highlighting the funds approved for Cedar Crest Square, to one of the bankers they met with several weeks earlier.
Spencer came to understand that Hill was using his official position as a Dallas City Council member to help her, Lee and Slovacek obtain more than $1 million in City funds for Kiest Blvd. and $1 million in federal earmark funds for The LKC. She also came to understand that Hill was using his official position as a Dallas Police and Fire Pension (DPFP) System trustee to assist them in their efforts to obtain $5.5 million in DPFP System funds for The LKC. In connection with the DPFP System funds, Hill invited Spencer to a December 2004 meeting at the Veterans Administration Hospital. At the meeting, Lee made a presentation about The LKC and its proposed development of the Lancaster Kiest Corridor. DPFP System real estate investment advisors were in attendance. This meeting led to further discussions between The LKC and the DPFP System real estate investment advisers regarding the purchase of the Lancaster Kiest Shopping Center for $5.5 million. As for the federal earmark, Spencer understood that Hill facilitated a May 2005 meeting with a member of the U.S. House of Representatives during which The LKC requested federal funding for the development of a transit-oriented mixed-use development in the Lancaster Kiest Corridor, known as the Dallas Lancaster Station.
On May 26, 2005, Lee instructed Spencer to write a $5,000 check for Hill, but to make it payable to Farrington & Associates. Lee told Spencer, "Ron's gonna do the same thing, and I'm gonna do the same thing. It's for ahh, I mean, just to show, ahh, Don that we appreciate him." He also told Spencer to get Hill a gift. In reference to the money and gift for Hill, Lee told Spencer: "[J]ust let him know that you appreciate him and you know. And uhm, you know, don't speak, you know, real clearly over the phone. Just kind of, you know, just want thank you for everything you do. Of course, you know, we 100 percent support you. We think you're a great councilperson and just want to show our appreciation to you." Spencer signed two checks totaling $5,500, made payable to Farrington & Associates, and gave them to Sheila Farrington. Lee and Slovacek instructed Spencer to write another check in the amount of $9,500 also made payable to Farrington & Associates, and to give it to Farrington, which Spencer did. This money, which totaled $15,000, was from Lee, Slovacek and Spencer and was intended to reward Hill for his official support of their business interests.