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Dallas developer accused of offering bribes to former Dallas City Council members

Sherman Roberts, president and chief executive officer of City Wide Community Development Corporation, is charged with two federal crimes.
Credit: AlessandroPhoto / iStock

A Dallas developer has been indicted on bribery charges for his dealings with two former Dallas City Council members who, prosecutors claim, supported his tax-credit housing projects in exchange for money and promises of future payments.

Sherman Roberts, president and chief executive officer of City Wide Community Development Corporation, is charged with two crimes: conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, and bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits.

If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in federal prison. 

His attorney, Douglas Greene, of Arlington, said Roberts will be making his initial appearance in federal court at 10 a.m. Friday in Dallas.  

“He’s pleading not guilty,” Greene said.

The council members Roberts is accused of paying and allegedly promising to pay are not identified in the indictment.

But the indictment contains clues as to who they might be.

One of them, referred to as “Council Member A,” is described as being elected four times from 2007 to 2013, and heading the city’s Housing Committee. That describes Carolyn Davis, who previously pleaded guilty to taking bribes from another developer before she died in a car crash in the summer of 2019.

RELATED: Dallas public corruption trial moved back to February

“In return for cash payments and the promise of future payments, Council Member A … lobbied and voted for Roberts's real estate projects, including projects known as Serenity Place Apartments, Runyon Springs, and Patriot's Crossing,” the indictment states. 

This council member also recommended “to the City Council that Roberts's project receive a conditional loan from the City of Dallas and other funds totaling $1,997,913,” the indictment states.

Competition among developers for approvals of their low-income tax credit projects is fierce, and according to the indictment, Council Member A also “demand[ed] that other applicants who were also seeking City of Dallas assistance and funding for their real estate projects withdraw their applications in order to increase Roberts's chances...”

“In return for a cash payment of $600, and the promise of future payments of $2,000 per month and a lump sum payment of $60,000, Roberts, acting in concert with Council Member A, also bribed Council Member B to receive favorable treatment from the City of Dallas in relation to a real estate project known as Patriot's Crossing,” the indictment states.

The indictment does not say how much, if any, money Council Member A received. It does say that the council member expected employment from Roberts after leaving the council in June 2015, which is about the time that Davis left the council.

RELATED: Late former Dallas council member who admitted taking bribes wanted to withdraw her guilty plea, court records allege

“Council Member B,” is not identified, but the indictment includes quotes apparently from recordings made of meetings in August 2018 involving Sherman and Council Members A and B where money is promised for support. Around that same time, August 2018, according to documents in a separate public corruption case, then-City Councilman Dwaine Caraway was making recordings with law enforcement’s help of his conversations with another developer who was also allegedly offering bribes in exchange for support of different housing projects.

Caraway, it was revealed later, was cooperating at the time with the FBI and federal prosecutors investigating corruption at Dallas City Hall.

“Bribing government officials in exchange for official acts destroys the public’s confidence in city government,” said Matthew DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Dallas Field Office in a news release Thursday.

“The criminal activity alleged today demonstrates the willingness of our trusted public officials to waste valuable resources intended for the residents of Dallas, while circumventing the processes they were charged to uphold,” DeSarno said. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to ensure that those who pay bribes, accept bribes and facilitate bribe payments are held fully accountable.”

Caraway is currently serving a nearly five-year sentence for taking bribes in yet another corruption case, this one involving the defunct Dallas County Schools and their school bus stop-arm camera program, which cost taxpayers millions in losses.

The competition among developers for city council approval of tax credits to build low-income housing also was the basis for another public corruption case several years ago. 

Councilman Don Hill was sentenced to 18 years in prison following a 2009 conviction for taking bribes in exchange for his support of low-income housing projects. Hill died in May 2017 from cancer.

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