John Wiley Price Bought Land and Put It in Associate's Name, Witnesses Say in Bribery, Tax Fraud Trial

When John Wiley Price bought land, he didn't want it in his name, according to testimony Thursday in his federal bribery trial.Price sought to buy property near Canton in 2005 and asked that the buyer's name be changed to Kathy Nealy, said Denise White, a real estate broker who represented the sellers."He said that all of his real estate was in her name," she said.Nealy was Price's close associate and political consultant who is accused of paying him bribes to help her corporate clients and make her lobbying business a success. She will be tried later.White said Price didn't explain why he wanted the property in Nealy's name. The deal ultimately fell through after the sellers backed out, she said.Price's land deals have featured in the trial's third week as federal prosecutors continue to make their case to the jury. Price is accused of taking almost $1 million in bribes from Nealy over a decade. Some of those bribes he's accused of taking in exchange for his votes and other official action were in the form of profits from land deals, prosecutors say.Nan Riter, a Forney appraiser, testified that she appraised a Price property in 2002 for a bank that lent money to Price to purchase the tract.The property, near Canton, had once been the site of a spa factory, and Price cleaned it up and performed major renovations on a building there, according to testimony. Nealy was listed in tax records as the owner.Price's neighbor, Mike Rodden Sr., testified that he believed Price was the buyer of the 5-acre rural property in Van Zandt County near Canton. He said he met Price about a decade ago when the commissioner asked him how he could get the utilities turned on. Price, he said, identified himself as the buyer.Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Miller asked Rodden if Price still owns the property."As far as I know," he said.Rodden said he did work for Price on the property including putting up a chain link fence and painting, rewiring and adding a bathroom to the building. He said Price paid him for the work."He's the only one I ever dealt with," he said, adding that he continues to mow the property for Price.Hair dresserAlso testifying Thursday was Price's hairdresser, who said she made out her salon's rent checks to Price even though Nealy owned her building.Prosecutors say Nealy used the property to funnel bribes to Price in the form of rent payments. Maurine Jones, owner of Tootsies Braiding Gallery on Lancaster Road in South Dallas, said she has known Price and done his signature hairstyle since about 2000 or 2001. Jones said she met Price when he spoke at her beauty school graduation ceremony. She was sitting behind him, she said."I could see the back of his head and his hair....It wasn't done proper," Jones said. "When I saw that I wanted to correct it."Jones said Nealy bought her building and is leasing the salon to her. But prosecutors contend Price gets the benefit of the rent payments.Price is a regular client who gets his hair done there once a week, she said. He gets a shampoo and style, Jones said."I do a twist," she said, noting that it's different from a braid.Jones said she initially charged Price $45 for the first few months but does his hair for free because "he's a walking advertisement for me." Having Price as a client, she said, has brought in more business.She said she paid the $1,200 monthly rent in cash, checks and a combination of the two and would give it to Price.Price's attorney, Shirley Baccus-Lobel, suggested Price would give the money to Nealy. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Walt Junker showed evidence of Jones' checks being deposited into bank accounts controlled by Price.Jones said she wrote rent checks in Price's name because he was the "manager" who helped her with repairs.On cross-examination, Baccus-Lobel noted that the government never questioned the barber of high-profile developer Ross Perot Jr., whose company was one of Nealy's clients.Baccus-Lobel asked Jones if her rent checks were ever returned. She said they were. As a result, Jones said she asked Price to handle the rent checks and make sure Nealy received the money that was due. She agreed with Baccus-Lobel that it was her idea because she didn't want any more problems with her rent payments."Would it surprise you that these rental payments showed up on her [Nealy] tax returns where they belong?" Baccus-Lobel asked her.Jones said it would not.  Continue reading...

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