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DALLAS -- Just after 7 a.m. Friday, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price left his Oak Cliff home behind the wheel of a BMW 850i, one of a caravan of high-profile vehicles that have defined his public image.

By 8 a.m., the car was empty at a building near Parkland Hospital, and Price was under arrest, charged with eleven counts of bribery, mail fraud, and tax fraud.

His life, and his image, had permanently changed.

'All told, Commissioner Price took in more than $1.1 million that he did not report to the proper authorities,' said Sarah Saldana, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.

'Mr. Price allegedly defrauded the citizens of Dallas County, the state of Texas, and the federal government,' said Diego Rodriguez, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Dallas.

Kathy Nealy, a Dallas political consultant and long-time associate of Price, was prominent in the indictment. The charges allege she paid Price to sway votes before the Dallas County Commissioners.

'At the same time, Ms. Nealy was paying bribes to Commissioner Price, she actively evaded nearly $600,000 in income tax, which she admittedly owes,' U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldana said.

Between them, Price and Nealy face 16 counts of bribery, mail and tax fraud.

Dapheny Fain, Price's assistant in his county commission district, faces one count of tax fraud and one count of lying to a federal agent. A fourth defendant, Christian Campbell, faces one count of bribery.

All four pleaded not guilty at their arraignment Friday afternoon.

'Not guilty, not guilty, not guilty, not guilty!' Price said to reporters outside the federal courthouse. 'I'm going back to work.'

Defending the defendants could be tricky.

'It's a very difficult case,' said Victor Vital, who has defended other Dallas officials in public corruption cases. 'It will require a great deal of diligence on the attorneys' part.'

The indictment alleges Kathy Nealy paid many bribes by check, making them traceable.

The arrest is a huge blow to District 3, which Price represents.

'The word 'arrested' brought tears to my eyes,' said Betty Culbreath, a former associate of Price's. 'I cried about it. My personal relationship with John goes back to the 70s.'

Culbreath worked in Price's office early in his career. He promised to bring fair treatment to a part of Dallas where it had been missing. While the commissioner will remain in office as his case progresses, there is still a sense of loss with the indictment, Culbreath said.

'I'm sad for the community and what it must be going through today, because it's devastated by this,' she said. 'Because this community has put its 100-percent support behind Commissioner Price.'

Former U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins told News 8 the case could take more than a year to go to trial and that Price, if found guilty, could face a sentence of 30 years. Price is 64 years old.

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

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