A Dallas man faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to his role in a fraud scheme involving an interstate highway expansion project.
Defendant Wade Wylie Blackburn, 34, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit mail fraud before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christine A. Nowak in federal court. According to court documents filed in connection with the plea, from 2008 to 2011, Blackburn conspired with James Kevin Bollman to defraud the Texas Department of Transportation. Bollman has pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
Court records state that the alleged scheme centered on raising investment money and purchasing Right-of-Way along Interstate Highway 35 East in Denton County with the intent of quickly re-selling the land tracts to TXDOT.
As part of the scheme, Blackburn and Bollman intentionally caused false material information to be submitted to the TXDOT appraiser regarding, among other things, their development plans for the various properties, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas. The release claims that both defendants made these representations to the TXDOT appraiser even though they knew they had no intent to develop any of the properties. Blackburn also admitted to writing a letter with material false statements to individuals at TXDOT, claiming he and Bollman were being forced to forego imminent development plans for the tracts, had been unable to successfully secure building permits, and were experiencing financial hardships as a result. TXDOT used option contracts to purchase the tracts for higher prices than what Blackburn and Bollman paid for the tracts.
Both men are accused of making false material oral misrepresentations to officials of TXDOT when they told them that they were experiencing financial hardships as a result of not being able to proceed with immediate development of the tracts.
“Blackburn and Bollman made the misrepresentations to TXDOT so they could ultimately benefit from the up-front option fee rather than wait for TXDOT acquisition by their usual course of condemnation,” the U.S. Attorney’s office stated in its release.
Both men were indicted in April 2016.