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Children: Dallas and Amanda
Bill Dallas: Soul Searching in San Quentin
By Mimi Elliott
The 700 Club
Bill graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee with honors and moved to California to learn the real estate business. By the mid-80s, Bill began a business with a partner, Tony, and they were determined to take San Francisco by storm.
“We put together huge deals, raising capital from investors who liked our creativity,” Bill said.
Bill and Tony became known as the boy wonders of the Bay Area and they reveled in that reputation.
“In our minds we were wildly successful; and the appearance to everybody - we were. We understood how to play the game,” Bill said.
Not all of their business dealings were above board. Bill said that they borrowed money from one partnership to pay for another deal.
“We had every intention of paying the money back,” Bill said.
Then the economy changed. By the spring of 1991, all of the properties had lost their value. They had used all of their money to fuel their lifestyles and promote other projects. Their financial backers, some of whom were falling on tough times as well, were asking about their money, wondering why work on their projects had halted and how they were going to fare over the real estate downturn.
“That’s when everything blew up in our faces,” Bill said.
His business collapsed, including the life he had built around it, and the legal hammer began to fall. Due to a lethal combination of ignorance and ambition, Bill handled investors’ money in a way that was apparently illegal, called the comingling of funds. Though their intent was good (to pay back all of their investors), Bill said their reckless and naïve approach was still against the law. Both state and federal governments filed charges against him.
In the meantime, Bill was faced with the fact that he didn’t like his life or himself. In July 1991, he was flipping through the TV channels one night and stopped to listen to a TV preacher talk about salvation. (Growing up, Bill occasionally attended church with his mother at a Protestant church. He went to Sunday school and learned some of the values that form the basis of Christianity. At 14, Bill prayed the sinner’s prayer but attended a legalistic church with no emphasis on relationship or grace.) That night, while watching TV, Bill asked Jesus into his heart.
ACTIONS REAP CONSEQUENCES
After a year and a half of legal defense, Bill was convicted of felony grand theft embezzlement and sentenced to five years in prison.
“For the first time in my life, I was forced to face the consequences of my actions,” Bill said.
His crime was considered among the most serious a person can commit, short of murder or rape. On top of losing rights as an American citizen, Bill was liable for fines, taxes and other payments in addition to years of parole.
He learned a lot of things in prison. One of the things: don’t ever give up.
“Imagine going to jail. Then imagine getting out of jail and facing $1.5 million in undischargeable fines. I got out of prison and had no money,” Bill said.
Since then, Bill has paid nearly all of his debts back.
Inside the walls of San Quentin for two and a half years, Bill wanted to give up and die. But some “lifers” in prison taught Bill what real faith was about. (Some of them Bill visits in prison and are still his friends today.)
“We are all facing financial difficulties in today’s economy," Bill said. "There’s a lot of financial uncertainty, but God is still in control. He is bigger than the economy. These tough times will pass, but through the process we can grow stronger as individuals.”
As far as recent fraudulent business schemes, Bill said it comes down to greed.
“We become invincible and think everything we touch turns to gold. It becomes prideful. We start buying the fancy cars, clothes, penthouses. We really do build our businesses on sand,” Bill said.
People looking for a quick return start believing the pitches.
“That’s where we start lying and cheating,” Bill said. "It’s not the way our economy works. You can’t keep borrowing for bad mistakes."
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