Another Dallas real estate agent charged in city council development bribery scandal

Businessman giving bribe money in brown envelope to partner in a corruption scam

DALLAS, TX –  It sounded like a project with great intentions, homes for the homeless, but it turned out there was much more to it behind the scenes and city officials were getting paid off. The Serenity Place project in Dallas is the latest project in the city that was facilitated by some good old fashioned palm greasing.

The following is a release issued by the Department of Justice Northern Texas District:

Another Dallas real estate developer has been charged with bribing city officials, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox.

Following an investigation led by the FBI’s Dallas Field Office, a federal grand jury indicted Sherman Roberts, the 66-year-old president of City Wide Community Development Corporation, on one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and one count of bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits on Wednesday. Mr. Roberts is scheduled to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Renee Toliver Friday morning.

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“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is determined to restore Dallas’ trust in its city government by systematically dismantling the ecosystems that allowed this sort of corruption. We continue to attack the problem from every angle, targeting bribe payors, recipients, and facilitators,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox. “Cities flourish when leaders have only constituents’ best interests at heart.  We will not stop until that goal is achieved.”

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

According to the indictment, Mr. Roberts allegedly bribed two City Council Members – identified in charging documents as “Council Member A” and “Council Member B” – to support his various apartment projects.

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In return for cash payments and the promise of future payments after her city council tenure ended, Council Member A voted to authorize more than $1.9 million in City of Dallas funding for Mr. Robert’s Serenity Place project, recommended that the project receive a 9 percent low income housing tax credit from the Texas Department of Housing, and demanded that developers with competing projects withdraw their applications for funding in order to increase Mr. Robert’s chances.

“Right now, you and me are making money” from the real estate dealings, Mr. Roberts allegedly told Council Member A, who was then serving as a leader of Dallas’ Housing Committee, in spring 2015.

Together, the pair then approached Council Member B for his help with another one of Mr. Robert’s developments.

In return for a $600 cash payment plus the promise of a $60,000 lump sum payment and a $2,000 monthly stipend, Council Member B agreed to stop the City of Dallas from issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for Mr. Robert’s Patriot’s Crossing project and to cast votes in favor of the project on the City Council.

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Mr. Roberts is the third real estate developer charged with bribery in the past two years.  Devin Hall, the developer behind the Grand Park Place apartment project, pleaded guilty in August 2020.  Ruel Hamilton, the AmeriSouth Realty Group executive who backed the Royal Crest housing project, is slated for trial in February 2021.

An indictment is merely an allegation of criminal conduct, not evidence. Like all defendants, Mr. Roberts is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Dallas Field Office conducted the investigation with the assistance of IRS – Criminal Investigation’s Dallas Field Office.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marcus Busch and Andrew Wirmani are prosecuting the case.