Jeremy “Jay” Scroggins pleaded guilty Tuesday to funneling alleged bribes from real estate developer Ruel Hamilton to the late former city council person Carolyn Davis.
Hamilton, the AmeriSouth Realty Group founder and CEO, was indicted in March on two counts of bribery. Davis pleaded guilty to taking bribes from him that same month.
Davis admitted to taking bribes while she was Housing Committee chair, sometime between November 2013 and June 2015. Her plea agrees that she took $40,000 from a developer for her assistance in getting an affordable housing project passed.
While Davis’ charges did not name Hamilton directly (he is called Person A), Hamilton is charged with two counts of bribery regarding local government receiving federal benefits.
Davis’ official charge is conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs using federal funds.
“In return for the money — plus the offer of a consulting contract once her tenure at the City Council concluded — Council Member Davis admits she lobbied and voted for the authorization of a $2.5 million development loan to fund the Royal Crest housing project, along with a City of Dallas resolution supporting 9 percent tax credits for Royal Crest, which was competing with another project,” the DOJ’s press release said.
Scroggins, 44, is the head of the nonprofit Hip Hop Government, is officially charged with one count of misprision of a felony, namely that he “used his not-for-profit company to funnel a bribe payment from Ruel M. Hamilton to Dallas City Council Member Carolyn Rhea Davis made in furtherance of Hamiton’s and Davis’s conspiracy, and Scroggins did not as soon as possible make known the federal crime of Conspiracy to Commit Bribery to some federal judge or some other federal civil or military authority,” documents filed by U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcus Busch.
Scroggins admits that on Jan. 9, 2015, he knew of and concealed bribes, and that from around 2014 to around March 2015, he served as an intermediary to funnel alleged bribes from Hamilton to Davis.
“At the direction of Davis, and in order to disguise and conceal the bribe payments, Hamilton wrote checks payable to Scroggins individually, or to a not-for-profit company named Hip Hop Government which was owned by Scroggins,” the case documents explain. “Scroggins, in turn, deposited and cashed Hamilton’s checks and transferred bribe payments to Davis in cash.”
“Scroggins admits and acknowledges that, at some point during the conspiracy, he became aware that the payments from Hamilton were intended to influence Davis.”
The documents say that Scroggins said specifically on Jan. 8, 2015, he knew checks written from Hamilton to Hip Hop Government or to him personally were allegedly meant to influence Davis’s actions, and that Hamilton wrote him a check for $3,500. Scroggins said that Hamilton allegedly gave the checks to Davis, who then directed Scroggins to cash them.
The penalty includes up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
At one point Hip Hop Government was apparently the manager for the South Dallas Fair Park Public Improvement District, an article the Dallas Observer’s Jim Schutze wrote in 2018 revealed. The PID was authorized to levy a special tax on properties within its overlay with the proviso that those funds are used to improve the area.
“The actual operation and management of the PID have been contracted out to an entity called Hip Hop Government, run by Jeremy “Jay” Scroggins. The message at Scroggins’ phone number said he was no longer accepting calls. On Facebook, Scroggins describes himself as a graduate of “Street University” with a “Ph.D. in common sense.”
Scroggins filed a certificate of formation with the state of Texas for Hip Hop Government, a nonprofit, in 2007, listing its address as Rockwall, Texas. In 2018, the Texas Secretary of State rescinded Hip Hop Government’s charter, apparently because it had never been granted nonprofit status by the state or federal governments.
Funded entirely from taxes collected for it by the city but operated by Hip Hop Government, whose sole employee is Scroggins, the South Dallas Fair Park PID had a total annual budget of $110,247 in 2017 and is slated to have an annual budget of $262,037 by 2023.”
The South Dallas Fair Park PID website still lists Scoggins as its executive director. In 2008, Hip Hop Government took a strong “anti-sagging” stance, buying up billboards with its “Pull ’em Up” admonishment when it came to sagging pants.
“Hip Hop Government initially reached out to Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway and Dallas city officials in response to a proposed anti-sagging city ordinance which sparked concerns about constitutionality,” a press release announcing the campaign read. “The organization joined forces with Caraway and eventually encouraged the city to implement a public education campaign in the form of a man law instead of a city law. ‘Hip Hop Government is not for legislating how people wear their clothes. But we are in support of people having self-respect and respecting people around them,’ explained Scroggins.”
The same press release said that Hip Hop Government was founded by Damon Wofford, Jay Scroggins, and Chris Williams. It is unknown if Wofford and Williams are still involved in the organization, and there is no indication that they have been implicated in the alleged bribery.