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December 22, 2014

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County official in Texas accused of taking bribes

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AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Evans Caglage

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price answers a question during a news conference called by Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson, rear, in Dallas, June 30, 2014.

DALLAS — A longtime Dallas County commissioner has been charged with accepting nearly $1 million in bribes in exchange for providing insider information and voting in favor of projects proposed by various companies, federal authorities announced Friday.

John Wiley Price, his chief of staff and two political consultants were in custody after being charged in a 13-count indictment.

Price is a well-known local leader in the Dallas area and has served on the commissioners court for more than 27 years.

Price and the other three defendants each pleaded not guilty during their initial court appearances Friday afternoon. All four were released on personal recognizance bonds.

While leaving the courthouse, Price told reporters he was innocent and would be getting back to work soon.

Billy Ravkind, Price's attorney, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldana said at a Friday morning news conference that during a decadelong scheme, two political consultants, Kathy Nealy and Christian Campbell, provided Price with $950,000 in money, cars and land.

Authorities allege that in exchange for the bribes, Price voted in favor of lucrative contracts before the commissioners court that were proposed by the consultants' clients.

"Price corruptly solicited and demanded a series of benefits ... to award contracts for Dallas County business," Saldana said.

Price is charged with 11 counts, including conspiracy to commit bribery and depravation of honest services by mail fraud. He is accused of leaking confidential information on contract bids to the clients of Nealy and Campbell to help these businesses land the contracts.

Saldana said that in return, Price was provided "with a stream of benefits" that included more than $447,000 in cash and checks, the use of a new Chevy Avalanche every four years as well as a BMW convertible and nearly $200,000 from property secretly bought for Price.

"These types of actions can diminish the public's trust and cost taxpayers money and resources," said Diego Rodriguez, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Dallas office.

Also indicted was Dapheny Fain, Price's chief of staff. She is accused of helping Price hide the bribes and other income he allegedly received.

Tom Mills, Fain's attorney, said he was still reading through the indictment.

Court records did not list attorneys for Nealy or Campbell.

Nealy is facing nine counts, Fain is charged with two and Campbell is facing one count.

Price and Nealy face the most serious charges in the case, which carry sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

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