New questions surround John Wiley Price's secret art business

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Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price prevailed at his corruption trial earlier this year, but a News 8 investigation has found new evidence that he is still engaged in some of the same business practices that were part of the FBI’s case against him.

At issue is a warehouse in DeSoto where a worker says he’s selling African art for Price. Price has refused to answer WFAA’s questions about the warehouse, which is controlled by Price’s longtime administrative assistant.

“It would be pretty bold to continue that same conduct that he just escaped in the indictment,” said Matt Orwig, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas now in private practice. He had no role in prosecuting Price, but reviewed WFAA’s findings.

Six years after federal agents raided Price’s Oak Cliff home, accusing him of bribery and tax fraud, Price walked out of the federal courthouse a free man.

Today he is back at Commissioners Court, once again the most vocal member at the county seat, and back to being one of the most powerful politicians in the city.

The only cloud hanging over his head, the tax fraud charges on which jurors couldn't decide.

He was accused, in part, of not reporting $50,000 in income from the sale of African artwork, which Price allegedly sold through a friend’s gallery over eight years. That friend, Karen Manning, was not charged in the main bribery case, but admitted to the feds she helped sell his African art. She was charged separately with tax fraud and has pleaded guilty. This week, she got one-year probation and was ordered to pay nearly $100,000 in back taxes.

But for Price, the jury was undecided on those tax counts, and the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas, John Parker, chose not to retry the case.

"I think, and I thought, most people thought that there was a very strong case of tax fraud against Commissioner Price,” said Orwig, who has followed Price’s corruption investigation for years.

Orwig said the tax fraud counts against Price should have been the easiest to prove – and the feds may still have that chance.

News 8 has uncovered evidence that Price's secret art business is still in operation.

While Price is no longer in business with Karen Manning, he apparently is still business partners with his long-time administrative assistant Dapheny Fain at a warehouse in DeSoto.

News 8 visited Fain's business, MSCAS LLC, a few weeks ago. Upon arrival, we found an adjoining warehouse door wide open and filled with African Art.

Inside, in the back, a worker appeared.

He says the artwork is John Wiley Price’s and that it’s for sale. Moments later, a woman appears from a side door, and says the artwork belongs to Fain.

She then kicks us off the property.

After a recent commissioner’s court meeting, we caught up with Price headed to his car. We tried to ask him about the artwork, but he just got in his vehicle and drove away.

Again, Price has bought and sold African art for years and never reported it as income.

And according to the worker at Dapheny Fain's business, he is still selling it.

The question is, is he still not reporting it?

“if he continues that, if he continues to generate income from there, if he does not report it then he could arguably have committed additional crimes,” Orwig said.

Email investigates@wfaa.com

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