HomeLatest NewsFeatured HomebuildersHome Buyer ResourcesBinding ArbitrationResource LinksSubmit ComplaintsView ComplaintsTake Action 101!Report Mortgage FraudMortgage Fraud NewsForeclosure NewsConstruction DefectsHome DefectsPhoto GalleryFoundation ProblemsHomeowner Website LinksHOA Reform
Main Menu
Latest News
Featured Homebuilders
Home Buyer Resources
Binding Arbitration
Resource Links
Submit Complaints
View Complaints
Take Action 101!
Report Mortgage Fraud
Mortgage Fraud News
Foreclosure News
Construction Defects
Home Defects
Photo Gallery
Foundation Problems
Homeowner Website Links
HOA Reform
Featured Topics
Builder Death Spiral
Report Mortgage Fraud
Foreclosure Special Report
Mold & New Home Guide
Special News Reports
Centex & Habitability
How Fast Can They Build Them?
TRCC Editorial
Texas TRCC Scandal
Texas Watch - Tell Lawmakers
TRCC Recommendations
Sandra Bullock
People's Lawyer
Prevent Nightmare Homes
Choice Homes
Smart Money
Weekly Update Message
Latest News
New Jersey
New Jersey & Texas
Write Letters to the Editors
TRCC in the News
Texas TRCC Scandal
Fair Use Notice
HOBB Archives
About HOBB
Contact Us
Fair Use Notice
Legislative Work
Your House

 HOBB News Alerts
and Updates

Click Here to Subscribe

Support HOBB - Become a Sustaining Member
Who's Online
ABC Special Report
Investigation: New Home Heartbreak
Trump - NAHB Homebuilders Shoddy Construction and Forced Arbitration
Dallas - Developers, Bribery, Affordable Housing & FBI Investigation
Friday, 07 October 2005


A Dallas lawyer and two local contractors claimed to be working closely with Mayor Pro-Tem Don Hill this Spring when a developer paid them a $50,000 down payment on a deal in which Hill would stop stalling a south Dallas project and get it approved, say two independent sources familiar with covert tape recordings of the negotiations. 

 Link to CBS 11
CBS 11 Video

Mayor Pro-Tem Don Hill--"In the Zone?"; Robert Riggs reports.
Related Stories
  • CBS-11 Exclusive: FBI Sent Wiretapped Developer To Officials With Bribery Offers
  • Mayor Pro-Tem Don Hill Linked to Development Project
  • Figure in FBI City Hall Investigation Allegedly Diverted Fed Dollars To Trendy Dallas Nightclub
  • Mystery Cars Driven by Councilman And Plan Commissioner Traced To Auto Dealer-Developer Also Under FBI Investigation
  • Dallas Mayor Demands Commissioner's Resignation, Citing CBS-11 Report of Ethics Lapse, FBI Probe
  • City Plan Commissioner Allegedly Was Paid $5,000 For Project He Voted To Approve
  • Ethics Questions Mount: Plan Commissioner Had Undisclosed Stake In Land Deal Funded By Unaware City Council
  • First Luxury Autos, Now New Unanswered Question: Who Pays Your Rent? Texas Rep. Terri Hodge Won't Say
  • CBS-11 Exclusive: State Rep. Terri Hodge, Named in FBI Subpoena, Maintained Close Ties To Developer at Center of Probe
    Defense attorney says money was for legitimate legal and political services

    Oct 6, 2005 9:00 pm US/Central
    By Todd Bensman and Robert Riggs
    The Investigators
    CBS-11 News

    A Dallas lawyer and two local contractors claimed to be working closely with Mayor Pro-Tem Don Hill this Spring when a developer paid them a $50,000 down payment on a deal in which Hill would stop stalling a south Dallas project and get it approved, say two independent sources familiar with covert tape recordings of the negotiations.

    Dallas attorney John Jerome Lewis, a longtime professional acquaintance of Hill, also an attorney, is heard on the FBI audio tapes negotiating the financial terms to clear Hill's political obstruction of the development, the two sources told CBS-11 News. Working with Lewis was Grand Prairie cement contractor and former NFL football player Kevin Dean, and Desoto contractor Ron Ferguson, the two sources said.

    The trio is heard in tape-recorded telephone conversations from at least April through May of this year working out the payment of a $250,000 total cash sum, along with other highly lucrative financial benefits from developer Bill Fisher. In exchange for Fisher's compensation to them, the men were to have Mayor Pro-Tem Hill stop blocking a zoning ordinance for the commercial project, the two sources familiar with the FBI-monitored recordings said. The mens' references to Hill indicated that Hill was maintaining an arms-length but ever-present oversight of their negotiations with Fisher.

    In October 2004, Hill killed tax credits for Fisher’s Dallas West Villas affordable housing project in his Pleasant Grove district, then delayed a revived version of the development for nearly six months. The mayor pro-tem finally moved to approve the zoning on May 11, the same day that Fisher paid Lewis $50,000 of the $250,000 and delivered signed agreements for ownership stakes and contracts worth far more, CBS-11 has learned. Later, Lewis met Dean in the parking lot of an Exxon gas station and handed him an envelope.

    Unbeknownst to any of his negotiating partners, Fisher had long been working

    Unbeknownst to any of his negotiating partners, Fisher had long been working as a confidential FBI informant recording conversations and meetings while the zoning languished, and the $50,000 he paid the men for Hill to move on the Dallas West Villas project was FBI sting money.

    Through an email from a City Hall aide, Hill declined to comment for this story. The Mayor pro-tem is not heard on any of the tapes described to CBS-11 News, although the FBI posesses many others that have not been described. It remains unknown whether any of the money Fisher paid or promised ever reached the elected council leader, or whether Hill believed he would be compensated at the time he finally voted - all circumstances that certainly would interest federal prosecutors.

    Hill and his plan commission appointee, D'Angelo Lee, are widely regarded as a persons of interest in an ongoing FBI bribery and extortion investigation related to an affordable housing boom in southern Dallas County.

    Fisher has repeatedly declined to comment about his role in the FBI investigation. Attorneys for Ron Ferguson and Kevin Dean declined to comment on this story. Mike Snipes, a former federal prosecutor who is now a private criminal defense attorney, represents Lewis.

    Snipes, who is familiar with the recordings that have been described to CBS-11, said the FBI tapes involving his client “sound incredibly damaging” but that they are “being taken out of context.”

    Snipes said Lewis’ share of the $25,000 share of the money was a legitimate fee for legal and political work, not a bribe.

    “My client John Lewis is innocent,” Snipes said. “He never bribed anybody, never intended to bribe anybody.

    “They were paid $50,000 as part of the transaction, the real estate transaction and as part of my client's legal fees," Snipes said. "That's absolutely consistent with legal practice here in this town. You need real estate lawyers for that.”


    Although it remains unknown whether Hill directed the negotiations for his own financial benefit, CBS-11’s two sources say Lewis, Dean and Ferguson are heard repeatedly describing – mainly in recorded telephone calls with Fisher - recent communications they claimed to have had with Hill throughout the talks.

    For instance, at one point during the recorded negotiations, just days before a scheduled April 13 vote on the project, Fisher demanded that Lewis go back to the mayor pro-tem and find out how much money he wanted.

    “I can’t agree until I know what Don wants. I need to know what Don’s number is,” the two sources said they heard Fisher tell Lewis.

    Lewis returned a short time later with the answer, ostensibly from Hill: $125,000 to be delivered before the next day’s vote and $125,000 immediately after, the two sources say. When he claimed he couldn’t come up with $125,000 on such short notice, Fisher was warned the project could die at the council table if the money wasn’t paid and if agreements for other financial concessions weren’t signed before the vote, the two sources said.

    Hill had the vote postponed for the May 11 meeting, and FBI-monitored negotiations resumed.

    After more recorded haggling, the deal on Fisher’s project was concluded just in time for the May 11 council meeting.


    CBS-11 has learned that on that day, shortly before Hill was to move for a vote, an FBI surveillance team photographed Lewis driving into an Exxon gas station parking lot. FBI photos described to CBS-11 show Lewis walking over to a parked pickup truck occupied by Dean and Ferguson. Lewis handed Dean an envelope containing what one knowledgable source tells CBS-11 was the $50,000 check from Fisher and signed agreements for an ownership stake in the project. Whether the envelope contained the check could not be independently verified, but it is known that Lewis and Dean split the $50,000 at some point.

    Snipes, the attorney for Lewis, said any contractual documents the FBI has seized support his client's contention that he believed the agreements were perfectly legal.

    "If it's FBI sting money, my client certainly didn't know that," Snipes said. "He thought it was payment from Bill Fisher for a legitimate transaction. You are right, it was split. But that's absolutely consistent with what they intended to do, which was to build developments in South Dallas."

    CBS-11 News reviewed one unsigned draft agreement between Fisher and Dean’s company KDAT that was crafted during this time - under the auspices of Fisher's FBI handlers as part of the bureau's criminal sting.

    Dated April 11, the draft contract spelled out that Dean would receive upfront money “to cover direct costs incurred,” a 10-percent ownership stake of the development’s general partnership and revenues, and future construction contracts at pending Fisher developments around the state. In return, Dean’s main obligation was to deliver “the support of Councilmember Don Hill to insure our site is zoned and approved…"

    The draft document also stipulated that “Nothing in the agreements shall be effective unless or until the zoning case on Dallas West Villas becomes an ordinance…”

    While Lewis was handing the money and agreements to Dean and Ferguson at the Exxon station on the morning of May 11, the Dallas City Council was in session with Hill at the horseshoe.

    Fisher’s ordinance came up for a vote shortly after 3 p.m. Hill asked Mayor Laura Miller to delay the vote for a short while so he could “kind of work on this item.” He stood up and left the council horseshoe table, a video of the meeting shows. It was unclear where he went or what he did, but Hill was back at the horseshoe an hour or so later when the ordinance came up again.

    He quickly moved to approve it this time.

    Lewis was by then present at the council meeting, having traveled from the Exxon station meeting at some point during the day, possibly still monitored by the FBI surveillance team that had followed him earlier.


    The May 11 transaction had its roots in a move by Mayor Pro-Tem Hill seven months earlier to kill Fisher’s Dallas West Villas development at the corner of Bruton and St. Augustine roads.

    CBS-11 has learned through records and interviews Dean, Ferguson and other individuals claiming political connections to Hill zealously initiated new negotiations with Fisher to revive the project shortly after Hill killed it.

    The Dallas Plan and Zoning Commission, spearheaded by Hill’s appointee, D’Angelo Lee, approved a new zoning ordinance for a renewed project on Dec. 16, records show. Commissioner Lee made a point to make sure that the zoning would contain a provision for liquor to be sold in the development.

    The measure was sent to the Dallas City Council for approval where it inexplicably languished.

    A long series of postponements orchestrated by Hill then ensued at the council level, closely corresponding to dates of behind-the-scenes negotiations and meetings that were occurring between Fisher and individuals claiming they could get Hill to revive the project.

    For instance, Hill had the zoning measure postponed at the February 9 council meeting and again on February 23, citing neighborhood opposition. One opponent, Jerry Tolbert, appeared at the hearing to speak while three spoke in favor.

    The zoning case came up again on March 9. Although no one appeared at the hearing to oppose the measure, and city staff recommended it be approved, Hill had the measure postponed again, saying he was still working to assuage local opponents.

    CBS-11 has reported that at about this time, in February or March of 2005, an FBI-wired Fisher accompanied Ferguson and Dean to the offices of black Dallas business icon Comer Cottrell. At the recorded meeting, Cottrell was asked to pass on a large bribe to Mayor Pro-Tem Hill to get the zoning ordinance moved to approval, Cottrell confirmed.

    Cottrell says he declined to do so.

    In early April, Dean, Ferguson and Lewis did finally meet with the mayor pro-tem. They gave him a detailed presentation on a project, according to Venita Benitez, who at the time believed she would be cut in on the development.

    The zoning ordinance was next set for a public hearing on April 13. In the days before this hearing, the FBI began recording an increasing number of phone calls and meetings negotiating the terms required for the delivery of Hill’s support.

    It was in one taped call the night before the April 13 council meeting that Lewis called Fisher to say there had been a meeting with Hill and that the financial terms of the agreement needed to be reworked. Fisher was told to deliver $125,000 to Lewis by 10 a.m. the morning of the vote, one source says.

    Fisher, no doubt being told what to do by his FBI handlers, stalled over the high number. The stall produced other phone calls that were recorded by the FBI.

    The next day, Hill postponed the vote for May 11, saying “There has been significant progress made in working with an adjacent homeowners group, but we have not been able to get all of those issues resolved.”

    However, no opponents had shown up for the hearing that day.

    By May 11, Fisher had negotiated the $50,000 reduced upfront fee that was exchanged at the Exxon station not long before Hill finally moved to approve the project.

    To date, no ground has been broken on the Dallas West Villas.

    To comment on this story, email
    Todd Bensman or Robert Riggs

    < Prev   Next >

     Texas, First Home Lemon Law Debated in the Nation
    Homebuyers Need a Home Lemon Law

    Search HOBB.org

    Reckless Endangerment

    Outsized Ambition, Greed and
    Corruption Led to
    Economic Armageddon

    Barnes & Noble

    NPR Special Report
    Part I Listen Now
    Perry Home - No Warranty 
    Part II Listen Now
    Texas Favors Builders

    Washington Post
    The housing bubble, in four chapters
    BusinessWeek Special Reports
    Bonfire of the Builders
    Homebuilders helped fuel the housing crisis
    Housing: That Sinking Feeling

    Consumer Affairs Builder Complaints

    As Goes Texas So Goes the Nation
    Knowledge and Financial Responsibility are still Optional for Texas Home Builders

    TRCC from Bad to Worse
    Case of the Crooked House

    The Pat and Bob Egert Building & TRCC Experience 

    Builders Looking for Federal Handouts

    Build it right the first time
    An interview with Janet Ahmad

    Voting Texas Style
    What Lawmaker is Voting for you?

    Bad Binding Arbitration Experience?
    This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
    or call 1-210-402-6800

    Homebuilding Texas Style
    And the walls came
    tumblin' down

    Pulte Homeowner Survey
    Warranty & Mortgage Experience
     Click to participate

    Tort Reform Feature
    Texas Monthly
     Hurt? Injured? Need a Lawyer? Too Bad!

     Feature: Mother Jones Magazine
    Are you Next?
    People Magazine - Jordan Fogal fights back
    Because of construction defects Jordanís Tremont Home is uninhabitable
    You could be the next victim
    Interview with Award Winning Author Jordan Fogal

    Letters to the Editor
    Write your letters to the Editor

    top of page

    © 2022 HomeOwners for Better Building
    Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.