Money trail between companies focus of Price trial on Thursday

Testimony in the John Wiley Price corruption trial on Thursday focused on the money trail from companies to Kathy Nealy and Daphney Fain -- and ultimately to Price.

The government had some bank records dating back to 2005 and 2006 -- and that appears to be when the FBI first decided they wanted to indict Price -- but opted to wait several more years before moving in.

Price came to court Thursday sitting quietly and taking notes as the government untied a financial knot of money to the commissioner.

“Absolutely critical testimony today – cash, cars and land. The government’s theme is coming to light,” said courtroom observer Nick Oberheiden.

The light was seemingly shining brightest on Nealy, an indicted co-conspirator -- but not on trial.

Nealy was paid $1.2 million by seven companies for consulting fees from 2001-2011 and paid Price, the government claims, $907,000 in cash, cars and property. More than $100,000 of that amount was to Price in rent payments for Tootsies Braiding Gallery on South Lancaster Road.

“The government outlined a layered system of financial transactions that all originated with Kathy Nealy and benefited, according to the government’s case, Commissioner Price,” Oberheiden said.

Six of Nealy's seven companies got what they were looking for through Price, the government charges, from money-making county contracts to money-saving tax breaks.

Fain was the commissioner’s longtime assistant and her side business selling promotional items netted her big deals, the government claims. MMS Co. did more than $1 million in promotional products business much with AT&T.

Price had a relationship with someone inside AT&T and directly benefited, cashing some of the checks from the business giant to Fain's MMS Co. himself. He made deposits into his accounts, feds say, for $551,000 to price through MMS Co.

Oberheiden said the government married Fain and Price “hip to hip -- like one unit where money would just informally flow between those two.”

Fain's attorneys said money that went to price was an ongoing repayment of money he loaned to her.

An email in court today shows FBI agents indicated as far back as 2006 they planned to indict Price and Nealy later. But in testimony this week, agents testified the price investigation began in 2010.

The defense is likely to explore that timeline in court on Friday and put forward their claim that the government is "going after Price."