UPDATED June 30 with comments from federal authorities.
Another participant in a scheme involving bribes to Democrats on Dallas City Council has been found guilty in federal court of buying political favors from corrupt city officials.
A jury convicted Dallas real estate developer Ruel Hamilton on two counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy for paying thousands of dollars to then-council members Dwaine Caraway and Carolyn Davis in return for their help securing city funding for his low-income housing projects.
Both Caraway and Davis admitted to taking bribes from Hamilton, who ran AmeriSouth Realty, a real estate investment company specializing in redeveloping older multifamily properties, primarily run-down apartment complexes, as low-income housing.
“Public corruption is one of the FBI’s top criminal priorities,” FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno said in a statement following Hamilton’s conviction. “It erodes the public’s trust and wastes valuable resources intended for taxpayers.”
Caraway—on release from prison, where he’s serving time for a separate bribery scheme—testified in court against Hamilton, admitting he took $7,000 from the developer in exchange for helping Hamilton’s company get high-dollar housing deals from the city.
The disgraced Democrat, who represented District 4 in South Dallas and was serving as mayor pro tem, resigned in 2018 after pleading guilty to taking $450,000 in bribes and kickbacks in a scandal involving the now-defunct school bus agency Dallas County Schools. The scandal brought down multiple corrupt city and county officials and their co-conspirators. Caraway was sentenced to 56 months in prison for his part in that scheme.
Caraway’s cash from Hamilton also bought his support for putting a paid sick leave initiative on the 2019 ballot—a scheme to boost Democrat voter turnout in the city elections. Hamilton was a major donor to local and state Democrat candidates.
Davis, the Democrat who represented South Dallas’ District 7 from 2007-2015, admitted she actively sought the bribes. In exchange, she used her influence as chair of the council’s housing committee to advocate for Hamilton’s Royal Crest housing project.
With Davis’ active support, Hamilton received $168,000 in city funding and a $2.5 million loan from the Dallas Housing Finance Corporation. Davis also pushed the city to favor Royal Crest over a competing project to receive low-income housing tax credits.
Davis pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and agreed to a three-year prison sentence but was killed in a car crash before her final sentencing.
Scandals surrounding low-income housing funds are a long-running problem in Dallas.
Twelve years ago, in what became known as the “Dallas City Hall Corruption Case,” federal authorities prosecuted more than a dozen defendants, including then-Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill and State Rep. Terri Hodge (D–Dallas), in an extortion and money laundering scheme involving low-income housing.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, a Democrat who served as a state representative from 2010-2019, was first elected to the Texas Legislature to replace Hodge in the wake of that scandal.
While running for mayor, Johnson said the affordable housing tax credit program “has become the mother’s milk of political corruption in Dallas.”
“The people of Dallas deserve true public servants, not those bought and paid for by the city’s elite,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will not allow a kickback culture to fester at City Hall.”
Hamilton, who maintains he’s innocent, faces up to 25 years in prison. His sentencing is set for November.