Ken Kalthoff, NBCDFW.com
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price is a power broker in the bail bond industry, according to numerous courthouse insiders.
Veteran Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, the target of an FBI bribery investigation, is a power broker in the bail bond industry, according to numerous courthouse insiders.
His connections to the bail bond industry are a topic among attorneys after reports this week about two vacant lots Price recently purchased near his Oak Cliff home from Bill Knox.
Knox, a Dallas attorney, has the most bail bonds currently issued, according to county records.
Knox and Price have both denied any improprieties in the transaction.
"There were no favors, no sweetheart deals," Knox said.
Price sits on the Bail Bond Board, the county agency that oversees the industry.
NBC DFW found 857 attorneys and 225 companies with a total of $281 million worth of bonds currently posted in Dallas County.
"The bail bond board actually makes sure those statutes are followed and they deal with bonding companies that come in and they want to write bonds in Dallas County," said Commissioner Mike Cantrell, a former justice of the peace who does not sit on the bond board.
Residents who go to jail but do not want to stay there must either pay bail or get a bail bond attorney or company to post it for them.
"Then, if they didn't show up, then you'd get a default judgment and you could forfeit, get a bond forfeiture and go against the bond," Cantrell said.
Cantrell said he was surprised to hear the total value of bonds so he asked the county auditor for forfeiture information and learned that taxpayers are owed $35 million in uncollected bonds on suspects who failed to appear in court.
"I don't know if it's an area that has been scrubbed and looked at and procedures put in place to really know if you go after it," he said.
Since the FBI raids Monday on his home and office, Price has referred all questions to his lawyer, Billy Ravkind.
Ravkind said he has hired accountants to thoroughly review all aspects of Price's public and private financial dealings.
"If I found out that somebody who wanted to be a bail bondsman and was having a problem going through the normal process gave John a whole chunk of money, I would have a concern. I don't think that exists," Ravkind said.
He said he has heard about questions concerning Price's cars and other real estate, about money handled by charities associated with Price and about his client's dealings with several associates whose homes and businesses were also visited by FBI agents this week.
"I've got to know the facts, and not the facts that I see, but the facts that are there," Ravkind said of his independent investigation.
Price supporters are not waiting for the investigations to be finished.
The Rev. Horace Bradshaw of the New Greater Emanuel Baptist Church in Dallas has called for a march at the Dallas Federal Courthouse for 9 a.m. Saturday.