The Dallas-based developer has been convicted of bribery of two former Dallas city councilors, Caroline Davis and Dwayne Caraway, said Acting US Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, Prerack Shah.
After a two-week trial, a federal jury found Ruel Hamilton, president of AmeriSouth Realty Group, guilty on one count of conspiracy and two counts of bribery of a local government agent who received federal funds.
“Dallas residents deserve real government employees, not those bought and paid for by the urban elite. By using the money to subdue elected officials to his will, Mr. Hamilton has betrayed the communities he claims to hold dear, ”said Acting US Attorney Prerak Shah. “The US prosecutor’s office will not allow a culture of kickbacks to emerge in the mayor’s office. To anyone who contemplates this kind of unscrupulous behavior: think twice. Our prosecutors are tenacious and we are determined to root out corruption wherever we find it. ”
“Government corruption is one of the FBI’s top criminal priorities and undermines public confidence and wastes valuable taxpayer resources,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent Matthew J. DeSarno. Hamilton used his influence and money to bypass the system, bribing two city councilors to earn incentives for an affordable housing project and to promote the program to increase his political clout. The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to ensure the full accountability of those who pay, accept and pay bribes. ”
According to evidence presented in court, from 2013 to 2015, Mr. Hamilton shelled out tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to Caroline Davis, who at the time served as chairman of the city’s housing committee.
In turn, Miss Davis, who pleaded guilty on her role in the scheme prior to her death in 2019 – supported Mr Hamilton’s Royal Crest housing project by voting to grant a real estate development loan and resolutions supporting the granting of a 9 percent tax credit to Royal Crest. Ms Davis supported the Royal Crest housing project despite not meeting the City’s listed multi-unit housing priorities.
In an attempt to hide the bribes, Mr. Hamilton channeled payments to Ms. Davis through a nonprofit intermediary run by Jeremy “J” Scroggins. Mr Scroggins, who also previously pleaded guilty – testified in court that he cashed checks for thousands of dollars requested by Ms. Davis and written to him personally or to his non-profit organization The Government of Hip-Hop. Mr. Scroggins testified that he spent $ 15,000 on the Freedom Ride tour in November 2014 and cashed the remainder of the checks, transferring most of the money to Ms. Davis. The councilor said payments to Mr. Scroggins would not be a problem because people “don’t go to jail for $ 2,000,” according to a recorded telephone call in court.
Evidence showed that Mr. Hamilton also paid Ms. Davis directly. In the course of the plot, Mr. Hamilton split the cash and at least once invited her to accompany him to the bank to withdraw cash. At the insistence of Ms. Davis, Mr. Hamilton also channeled campaign donations to his political protégé. In addition, Mr. Hamilton promised Miss Davis a job as soon as she was no longer a lawyer. Testimonies showed that Mr. Hamilton paid Ms. Davis over $ 145,000 after she left the board.
At one point, Mr. Hamilton worried about the former city councilor running his finances with a tooth comb, telling Ms. Davis, “she scares me.” Despite this, he continued to bribe Ms. Davis.
Three years later, in 2018, Mr. Hamilton gave a $ 7,000 bribe to councilor Dwayne Caraway, who Mr. Hamilton believes could have persuaded the mayor to put a paid sick leave referendum on the city council’s agenda. Mr. Hamilton expressed the hope that the referendum will increase the turnout at the polls, giving advantages to his political candidates.
The video, taken into evidence in court, shows the couple meeting in Mr Caraway’s office on August 3, 2018:
“I want to do this, so … what can I do for you right now, today?” – asks Mr. Hamilton.
“You can answer the bill I just issued for 62 years. [$6,200] today, replies Mr. Caraway.
“Okay,” says Mr. Hamilton. “Can you agree with the mayor?”
The couple then discuss what Mr. Hamilton should put on the poster line so that “if anyone ever asks, I can provide a link.”
[Video clips available to credentialed press upon request.]
Mr Hamilton, who was originally indicted in February 2019, now faces up to 25 years in federal prison – up to five years on conspiracy charges and up to ten years for each count of bribery. (He was acquitted of the charge of using an interstate facility to commit bribery in violation of the Travel Act, on a count of up to five years.) His sentence is set for November 9, 2021.
The FBI Field Office in Dallas conducted IRS-assisted investigations – Criminal Investigations. Assistant US Attorneys Tiffany H. Eggers, Chad E. Meacham, Joe A. Magliolo, Andrew Virmani (former minister), and Marcus Bush handled the case with the support of their appellate attorney, Assistant US Attorney Stephen S. Gilstrap. Chief U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn presided over the trial.