John Wiley Price Investigation: Commissioner Buys the Same Land Twice On the Same Day

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JWPInRavkindsOffice3.jpg
Photo by Alex Scott
John Wiley Price at attorney Billy Ravkind's office Monday afternoon
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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118 comments
Anon
Anon

I see where JWP sold off this land on Grady Niblo to Henry Building back in mid December.  Any interesting follow-up details available on this transaction?  Wasn't HBI named in the FBI affidavit on JWP?  Seems they've had quite a cozy relationship for some time.

voice of reason
voice of reason

Bottom line, this guy is a thug.  He thinks he is very smart, but he just dont think

Twiceshy12
Twiceshy12

This lawyer Ravkind will burn in hell for defending scum like Price.  Because of how our districts are drawn up, blacks will always vote for this crooked piece of human garbage.  Hopefully the FBI will do something the local police have never had the will to do and that is lock him away forever.  Not like they did Danny Faulkner.  But if you put a black on the jury you will be wasting tax dollars even having a trial.

Joe Spotts
Joe Spotts

Corruption of all colors destroyed Dallas!   Why would any new business want to move there?Too little to late!!!!!!!

Gizshot
Gizshot

The Hustler: John Wiley PriceEveryone’s heard the rumors about the money, the shady deals, the violence, the women. Sadly, the facts are even harder to comprehend.by Laura MillerPublished 3.02.1991

http://www.dmagazine.com/Home/...

Guest
Guest

Jim,

If you talk to Wayne White again, you should ask him if that is his signature on the document above.  I am no forensic handwriting analyst, but - to my eye - there are suspiciously similar patterns in the signatures.  Compare, in particular, the two h's, and the end of "Wayne" and "Fain."

Larrygardner23
Larrygardner23

Notwithstanding how fun it is to imagine all sorts of dark conspiracies, this is more than likely a simple mistake. Ms. Fain's "transaction" is a QuitClaim deed; a device normally used to transfer title to a property to another person WITHOUT a sale, ie.: mom moves to an ECF and quitclaims (gives) her house to her daughter. Ms. Fain could not have "quitclaimed" a deed on a property she didn't have title to. Notice also the document says State of Texas Kaufman County although it is for a Dallas County property and file marked by Earl Bullock, Dallas County Clerk.  Looks like someone was in a hurry and filled it out erroneously because it was in a packet of blank documents.

Sounds like Mr. White has 'seller's remorse' and an animus toward Mr. Price. Probably not a very reliable source of information.

rumpunch
rumpunch

So since JWP is claiming that all of the cooky transactions are completely normal, I propose we play "Act like innocent JWP".  Some suggested activities are:

1.  Order chinese takeout.  Have the delivery guy meet you at Main Street Garden.  Sit on a park bench reading a paper wearing shades.  Be sure to put the money in a envelope and sit on it.  Tell the driver to sit down next to you and put the bag down.  Then tell the driver when you stand up and take the bag to scoot over onto the envelope.

2.  If your out with co-workers and your mother or wife calls your cell.  Tell them you will call them right back and go use a nearby payphone.  Look around you before amking the call.  Offer no details upon returning to table.

3.   Shread all coupons, catalogues and newspapers using a cross cut shreader.  Leave on your curb in a clear bag for recycling.

4.   Take a stack of utility bills and burn them in your backyard grill.  Make sure your neighbors can see.

5.  Wrap all of you offseason clothes in garbage bags.  Bury the package in your neighbors backyard.  Act like you do not know that they can see you.

6.  Burn you kids christmas list to a cd.  Write "secret files" on it with a sharpie.  Ask your neighbor or co-worker to hold onto it.  Tell them to keep it in a safe place and that "there are people who would be very interested to see its contents".

Remember be creative.  Be sure to establish a pattern to make the normal seem criminal.  Therefore, when you do commit a crime it does not stick out from your normal.

Txcharles
Txcharles

What is the statute of limitations on federal bribery?  If Jack Madera was involved it probably goes all the way back to vending contracts at Parkland Hospital and why new bids were always delayed and delayed

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I just noticed something else odd about these documents.  They were apparently prepared by Ranger Title, a KAUFMAN County title agency which doesn't appear to have any presence in DALLAS County (even though the property in question is in Dallas County):

http://www.ranger-title.com/

Indeed, its website states it serves "Kaufman, Rockwall and Ellis Counties," so how did it end up getting involved in a Dallas County transaction?

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Can't wait for the DO to Live Blog this trial!

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

I have no doubt that this is nefarious, but I'm having a hard time thinking of how it's nefarious.  The best I can come up with is that he structured two transactions in order to get more debt on the same collateral.

rumpunch
rumpunch

To clear up some confusion, the lot in question is not over by the Potter's house or it neighborhood.  The lot is the NE corner of Grady Niblo and the 408 service road.  It is the other side of the highway from the Potter's house and DBU.

The curious part is why is it worth so much.  The 9 acres just north of it is only worth $62k, JWP land is worth $196k.  In addition, why did he want it so bad.  Makes me think that he knows something about the futher plans by either the state or county we dont know.

pencil
pencil

I predict Lawyer Ravkind will be driving a newly acquired used Bentley in the near future.

gabbahey
gabbahey

Just when I thought this was going to be another long, hot, boring summer with no Mavs or Stars, just our little Red Shoed Rangers, the mother of all Dallas corruption stories breaks.

Sounds like someone's hiding money. The feds likely already had what they wanted on him prior to the raid, the seizure was probably just "tree shaking", to see what else falls out.

rumpunch
rumpunch

Honest people who are involved in complicated transactions whether it is quit claim deeds or in kind donations of medical supplies take special efforts to document rational and facts at the time for purposes of transparancy and basically to keep regulators off of their ass. 

The fact that Ravkind CURRENTLY has two CPAs pouring over Price's financial transactions leads up to believe that the facts are currently not documented.  As a CPA, I know that any records prepared after the fact can contain errors or manipulation.  Of course we will never see the draft reports from the CPA's which contain the answers Mr. Ravkind did want to see.  Also, if I had a $100,000 in cash in my house, I would not have to hire a CPA to tell you where it came from.

Jeff H. Reynolds
Jeff H. Reynolds

looks like an effort at money laundering to me...  a bogus Quit Claim Deed used to channel funds...

Gizshot
Gizshot

When he goes down he will serve his time in a Federal (Country Club) prison so it won't be too bad for him. JWP, Ravkind. the FBI and others know that he is going to go down. The FBI has been building this case for a year or two. They don't move in until they have made the case. The raids on his home, office and other locations are just a necessary part of the process. I wager they already have copies of most every document they need. I read he is 60 years old. Whether he accepts a plea or tries to fight it out, he will serve about 20 years and be 80 (if he lives that long) when he gets out....his life pretty much over. Final thought/question...does anyone remember when former Dallas mayor Laura Miller was a freelance writer and did a feature story on JWP called "The Hustler"? I think it ran in D Magazine or the Observer back in the 80's or early 90's. It kicked his A**. I remember it said that he used to drive his Lotus sportscar down the tollway at 100 mph and many other shyster type antics . I wish I could get my hands on that story. It needs to be be reprinted. Does anyone know if it is available on the web somewhere?

Phelps
Phelps

Actually, you can quitclaim property you don't have a deed to.  That's how the county sells property at auction without ever actually taking title to it.

md
md

"John Wiley Price grew up in Forney, a small town in Kaufman County..."

Andy Nold
Andy Nold

Is that really an issue? I just did a survey in Ward County with a title commitment prepare by a title company near Houston. If they have the records, what difference does it matter what county they are in?

Phelps
Phelps

I think that the big deal is that structuring a sham transaction to get a second loan on the same collateral is known as "bank fraud."

farmgirl
farmgirl

I live on the farm at this location and they are trying to put a road through one of our houses that extends Grady Niblo to Mountain Creek.  They have been trying to run us out of there for years.

DoubleOJoe
DoubleOJoe

"Also, if I had a $100,000 in cash in my house, I would not have to hire a CPA to tell you where it came from."

If any statement sums up this whole process, it's this one.  NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, no matter how rich they are, "forgets" where $100,000 in cash comes from.  Either Price is lying himself blind, or he's the stupidest man in Texas.

JimS
JimS

Yeah. Do you want to make sure everybody can see that you are aboveboard? Or do you want to sneak something past? Transactions have their own body language. I know mine  would always be, "Nothing good here for feds to look at."

Er
Er

Fain would have to claim the amount she received as income.  If Fain claimed the money on her tax returns, then money laundering is not an issue here.

Wes Scott
Wes Scott

Gizshot, have you actually ever been to prison, or even in a prison? I used to work for a company that built prisons, and I frequently had to go into populated prisons to service the digital door control systems. This term "country club prison" is one frequently used by people who have no idea about what they are speaking.

If you think that such a term is appropriate, then try going into one of those "country club prisons" and spending about 90 days. When you come out, get back to me on whether or not you still think that term is appropriate. There are no golf courses, no formall balls (though you may see more balls than you ever wanted, and they may be doing things you never hoped for), no gourmet meals, no lavish parties, no tennis courts - you are in prison! You go to bed and get up when they tell you to so so, and it damned sure ain't at 9:00 AM or 11:30 PM. You eat what they serve you when they tell you to eat. And, you do not get to sit there in your comfortable room managing your stock portfolio on your laptop with a wireless connection.

The difference to which you refer is the fact that the minimum security federal prisons for people with very low escape probability may have regular type rooms rather than barred cells because building a structure with a cage costs a LOT more money, and it is an unnecessary waste of limited resources to imprison people who are not an escape risk.

Texaspainter
Texaspainter

Hey Gizhere is a page from D's letters to the editor about Miller's article:www.dmagazine.com/Home/1991/05...Now, we need to to find the article. NOW, it all makes sense why JWP was doing all those robo calls for Rawlings scaring people away from Kunkle.NOW, I get it.Back to digging for the article.Perhaps Robert or Jim can find it.

Max
Max

Are you kidding. They don't even have a copy of John Bloom's "We Are the Weird" from the old Herald. Actually many do, but they keep it underground, cuz. Laura probably has it framed in the servants quarters head.

Larrygardner23
Larrygardner23

Except that Ms. Fain is not a governmental agency.  Government has the statutory authority to seize property it does not have title to and auction it; private citizens don't.  How could it possibly benefit Mr. Price to have someone, anyone, quitclaim deed a property to him that he already owns?  When bogus quitclaim deeds are filed for nefarious purposes, the property is deeded in the name of the title holder to a fake name or to someone else who then tries to "sell it" to an unsuspecting party.

whodunnit
whodunnit

I would imagine a "bonded title" is a similar track for motor vehicles, if the owner listed on the title did not willingly sign it over.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Ah.... so there you have it.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

In this case, the only "title plant" Ranger appears to own is in Forney and, to my knowledge, they don't own an interest in a Dallas County title plant, so it would be cumbersome to prepare the title commitment.

In the case you cite, it is quite possible that a large title company near Houston would also serve surrounding counties.  It really depends on each title company's area of coverage.  Ranger doesn't appear to cover Dallas County in the normal course of business.

rumpunch
rumpunch

I think that Wylie is just saying its odd.  The explanation is probably due to the fact that Mr. White was in the Forney area at the time and therefore used a local Kaufman county title company. 

The problem that JWP will have is that even the innocent things he did were executed so shady and therefore will require scrutinity, that he will will have no credibility once he tries to spin the things that are actually criminal.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

Duh.  That's what I was suggesting, but so far, we don't have enough evidence to know that, and there are (were, really) easier ways to get a fraudulent loan.

BoPeep
BoPeep

....you mean the "ten dollars and other good and valuable consideration" she received?

Guest
Guest

Miller's article, "The Hustler," was the cover story of the March 1991 issue.  The D Magazine online archive lacks only one issue from 1991.  Guess which one.

http://www.dmagazine.com/Magaz...

Bob
Bob

The article was called, "The Real John Wiley Price" and it is definitely not available on D's Web site.

Joebobbriggs
Joebobbriggs

WRITING - Joe Bob's America

We Are the Weird(First verse boys only:)There comes a timeWhen we need a piece of meatWhen the world

Must scrape together some grubThere are Negroes dyingAnd it’s time to make em eatThey don’t really need no Nutra-Sweet

 

(Take it, girls:)We can’t go onPretending day by dayThat someone elseWill build the cafeterias…We all need chow to stuff our faces withAnd the truth, you know, goat meatIs all we need.(Everybody now, make it wail, sing out:)We are the weird,We are the starvin,We are the scum of the filthy earth,So let’s start scarfin…There’s a goat-head bakinWe’re callin it their food.If the Meskins can eat it,They can eat it too.(Okay, bring it down, Stevie and Willie only:)Send em a heart so they’ll know that someone caresAnd a lung, and an elbow, and three big toesAs the Big Guy told us, we should always clean our plate,Cause then all the Africans’ stomachs won’t look gross.(Backup singers, chorus, Lionel Richie groupies, everybody:)We are the weird,We are the starvin,We are the scum of the filthy earth,So let’s start scarfin…There’s a burger bakinWe’re callin it Big MacBut all it really has insideIs a roach’s back.(Down again, Diana, Michael, and all sissies:)When you’re down and out,And there seems no slop at all.Cause they took it for the tourists at the Hilton Hotel,Let us realize that they need it just the sameCause they don’t know how to eat a beetle shell.(Big finish, drive it home, Hallelujah!:)We are the weird,We are the starvin,We are the scum of the filthy earth,So let’s start scarfin…There’s a moon pie waitinAnd a Dr. Pepper tooAnd we’ll send out for Shakey’s pizzaMe and you.

Phelps
Phelps

Hey, I'm already into speculation.  Without more info (like what you would get in a search pursuant to a warrant) it's plain rank speculation.

rumpunch
rumpunch

We will all find these lessons in Title101 helpful when we are purchasing the 7 properties and 12 - 24 cars at auction in the coming years.

BTW - dibs on the Lotus if he still has it.

Tio Pepe
Tio Pepe

I was an escrow officer for years, mostly in REO, and sometimes you can sniff out the fraud and sometimes you can't.  Sometimes you suspect something but have no sufficient evidence.  There doesn't seem to be anything particularly shady about the initial transaction.  I did notice that the QCD does not have a GF number written or stamped on the front page so it doesn't appear that it was part of the insured policy.  I would be interested to see the settlement statement to see if Ms. Fain received any proceeds from the sale.  That's the only reason I can think of for the QCD as it doesn't appear that she had any previously held title convenants on said property.

Hi Bob...enjoyed you on the Musers this morning.  It wasn't TERRRRIBLLLEEEEE...

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I've seen a lot of shady deals facilitated by title companies that are a little too "friendly" with one of the parties, so it shouldn't surprise Ranger if they end up being questioned about it.

Nevertheless, the proffered explanations seem to make sense and based on what I've heard so far, I doubt RTC had anything to do with this either.  It would be interesting to know what they thought was going on with the two documents, however.

Tio Pepe
Tio Pepe

Poor little Ranger Title...the Tin Foilers are dragging them into this.  As stated previously, I know that there was at one time a fee office in Garland licensed under their name and they had an office in Mesquite as well.  A title company doesn't have to have an office in a particular county in order to issue a policy on real property in said county.  I worked for a company who only had offices in Dallas and Harris County but we were licensed in 32 counties.  Even if they weren't licensed in Dallas County they still could have ordered title evidence from a company that was and split the policy premium.  I believe JWP is as crooked as a left-handed snake but I doubt RTC had anything to do with this.  Those are good people over there. 

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Fair enough.  Just because something is rare and unusual doesn't make it wrong.

Andy Nold
Andy Nold

Uh, Ward County is between Midland and El Paso and would not be in a county surrounding Houston.  Ranger appears to have an affiliated Garland Fee Office, which I assume is still in Dallas County. Without knowing more about the owners of the title company, I think the previous explanation that the seller was in Forney is a plausible explanation.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Thanks, rumpunch, couldn't have said it better.

md
md

"The story raised questions about Price's business practices--alleging that the commissioner benefited financially from exploiting his position as a government official and black leader. Miller reported that Price and Kathy Nealy--a well-known black political consultant who, incidentally, played a role in Price's decision to back the Trinity River Plan--ran a business that advised companies on how to handle minorities. The implication: Price protested or threatened protests, then hit up the companies for money.

The bombshell in the Miller article, however, concerned Price's relationships with women. Miller quoted three women, who weren't identified by name, accusing the commissioner of raping them--allegations that Price denied. Miller also revealed that Price had borrowed money from his campaign fund to pay off his personal home-improvement loan and failed to report the transaction, as state law requires. After the article's publication, the district attorney investigated the sexual-assault and campaign-finance allegations, but eventually dropped the cases."

http://www.dallasobserver.com/...

md
md

You can see the cover here:

http://www.dmagazine.com/Home/...

March 1991"The Real John Wiley Price"Laura Miller’s investigation of the county commissioner’s shady business practices and alleged rapes.

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