When the price of community support got too high, housing tax credit developer turned to FBI

Tax Credit Developer Bill Fisher (DMN photo)
Texas low income housing tax credit developer Bill Fisher leaves the federal courthouse (DMN photo)

It’s like a pornographic movie… the Dallas housing tax credit trial…  everyone gets screwed.

In today’s trial testimony the Dallas Morning News reports

Busch [federal prosecutor] plays  a Feb. 16, 2005, call between [Low Income Housing Tax Credit Developer and FBI star witness Bill] Fisher and [Black State Employees Association of Texas (BSEAT) official Darren] Reagan. Fisher has just received a new proposal from Reagan. He wants half the developer fee on Fisher’s upcoming project, about $1.5 million. “I can’t do that,” Fisher tells Reagan. “It’s just too costly to do business in District 5.” “That’s your call,” Reagan tells him.  “I already paid you,” Fisher says.  “I’m talking about equity,” Reagan responds on the tape.

According to yesterday’s testimony, before Fisher got fed up and went to the FBI to blow the whistle, he signed a $55,000 contract to buy the “community support” of Reagan and BSEAT. That was apparently an acceptable cost of doing business. Today, Fisher testified he paid Reagan $85,000 (presumedly the $55,000 community support contract plus another thirty grand). Even that did not seem to bother Fisher. But Reagan got even more greedy and kept billing Fisher at a rate of $1,500 per hour, apparently to the tune of another $50,000. Finally, Fisher decided it was getting too expensive and went to the FBI, who advanced Fisher the funds to continue to pay Reagan.

After Fisher decided to wear the government’s wire, Reagan upped the price for community support again. This time to half of Fisher’s $1.5 million “developer fee” he got from the Texas Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. That much money Fisher would not part with. With that demand, “They’ve run me out of South Dallas,” he testified this afternoon.

I cannot help but observing that with a $1.5 million fee in the mix, no wonder Fisher was so desperate to buy community support.

But wait, there’s more!

Fisher testified that Reagan was trying to get even more money by forcing Fisher to agree to hire who Fisher described as unqualified African American contractors as part of the kickback scheme. The FBI wire tap of Reagan’s phone picked up a conversation that was reported by the Dallas Morning News from this afternoon’s court session…

[Federal Prosecutor] Busch plays a tape of Reagan trying to get another contractor to come to a meeting with him and Fisher. Fisher hasn’t arrived at Pappadeaux’s [restaurant] yet, and  Reagan tells the contractor who has just called that he’s expecting Fisher to show up in 15 minutes. Come by immediately, Reagan tells him.  This is too big for me to even bid, the contractor told Reagan. Come by Pappadeux’s and talk to me, Reagan implores. I might be biting off more than I can chew, the contractor tells him.

Then Reagan tells the contractor this: Here’s what I’m telling all the guys [minority contractors] I’m recommending —  I hook them up with a white boy who will do the work, and ya’ll joint venture it, and you get paid, Reagan tells him.

The contractor tells him that he appreciates Reagan trying to do this for him, but he still isn’t sure. Let me get you hooked up and ya’ll “JV” it, meaning joint venture. Reagan then begins spouting out some directions to the restaurant, and tells the contractor to “get his ass in gear” and get over here.

The trial resumes next Monday. Can it get any worse?

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