PALO PINTO – Mineral Wells Mayor Christopher Perricone is facing a third-degree felony charge of aggravated perjury following his indictment Thursday by a Palo Pinto County grand jury.
If convicted, the 38-year-old Perricone faces a possible punishment of 2-10 years incarceration and a fine up to $10,000. However, with no known prior felony convictions, the mayor would also be eligible for probation.
Perricone was at the courthouse Thursday when the case was presented by a special prosecutor from Johnson County to the regularly seated, randomly selected grand jury that has been hearing local cases for months. The case was reportedly scheduled for presentation last month, but the special prosecutor had a scheduling conflict.
Following the panel's return of a true bill, Perricone opted to go across the street and be processed through the Palo Pinto County Jail. He was released Thursday evening on a $5,000 bond.
"A just trial will serve justice," Perricone told the Index following a request for comment. "Psalm 35 is the scripture the Lord gave me just prior to taking office."
He said he plans to remain a candidate for the Texas House District 60 seat, which he filed Dec. 9 to run as a Republican candidate.
"Absolutely," Perricone when asked about the House race, "even more reason as I stand up against corruption on principles based in truth."
Three others – Kellye SoRelle, Dr. Glenn Rogers and Jon Francis – are also seeking the eight-county seat on the GOP's March primary ballot.
A complaint against Perricone and American Precision Ammunition owner Matt Campbell was presented the Palo Pinto County Sheriff's Office back in June and investigated. At the time, Sheriff Brett McGuire told the Index his department conducted an investigation and, based on its findings, referred the case to the Texas Rangers for further investigation.
Once the Texas Rangers investigation was complete it was turned over the district attorney's office, which from the outset of the investigation said it would assign a special prosecutor to present any information to the grand jury since the case involved a locally elected official.
The investigation centers on an audio-recorded March hearing when Perricone and Campbell appeared before the Palo Pinto Appraisal District's Appraisal Review Board to contest the taxable value on the Garrett Morris Parkway property Campbell's company acquired from the Mineral Wells Industrial Foundation. Perricone assisted Campbell in the appeal to have the property's taxable lowered from $770,000 to $500,000 – the lower amount being what the mayor and Campbell say was the property's purchase price.
Based on their information, given under sworn oath, the ARB did approve reducing the property's taxable value to $500,000.
The complaint claims Perricone provided false material information under sworn oath when he said information on the sale price presented at the appraisal review hearing came from the city's website. The complaint claims the city would not have had that information on file or its website since the city was not involved in the transaction. Rather, the complaint states the sales information came from the Area Growth Council's website.
Further, the complaint claims the information presented the ARB members was false, based on the closing sale documents – which the ARB board requested from the Area Growth Council and are on file with the appraisal district.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development settlement document between APA, Comanche National Bank and the Mineral Wells Industrial Foundation, shows a contract sales price of $770,000, plus $27,640 in closing costs charged to the ammo company. The loan amount, however, was $616,000 after the MWIF relinquished its equity and provided a monetary gift totaling $270,000. The MWIF also paid $19,203 at closing. American Precision Ammunition walked away with $100,918 cash, the document shows.
The only $500,000 figure on the sale document reflects a payoff to PECOFacet, the owner before the MWIF acquired the property. PECOFacet had first lien on the property, and $500,000 went to PECOFacet to repay a loan it was carrying with the MWIF.
According to records, PECOFacet owed the MWIF $54,000 rent on a different property. The bank acquired first lien position and the rent owed. The MWIF gifted $116,000 to the sale, which it claims was the amount of appreciation over the several years it was in the foundation's hands.
The Index obtained a copy of the HUD property settlement document, dated September 23, 2016, and is signed by Campbell, APA manager Gary Phillips, MWIF President Richard Ball and Jane Privitt of Elliott and Waldron Abstract and Title Company, which completed the closing and settlement.
It is not known if Campbell has also been indicted. Typically here, grand jury lists are made public the Monday following the regular monthly Thursday sessions. That is because indictments are first reviewed and signed by the judge on Friday. Also, the judge seals and issues warrants for any indicted persons not previously arrested or formally charged. Sealed indictments become public once they are served and the person formally charged and arraigned.
The only reason Perricone's indictment became public Thursday evening was because of his voluntarily submitting himself to a jail walk through on the charge.
The law states aggravated perjury occurs when a person makes a false statement "during or in connection with an official proceeding; and is material." Material statements are ones that can have a direct bearing or impact on an official proceeding.
Perricone sued the city in a Parker County district court last month, citing a number of alleged wrongdoings by city council and officials including violating his constitutional rights to due process, his ability to set agendas and call special meetings and asking the court to define the word "deal." That case was transferred to federal court in Fort Worth.
The mayor is also closely tied to other suits filed recently against the city, a federal case filed by Campbell and American Precision Ammunition against the city and other named defendants citing contractural violations and damages, and one filed in a Parker County district court by Katherine and Edward Estes, owners of The Haunted Hill House over issuance of a certificate of occupancy.
Perricone also has at least one pending civil lawsuit against him and his Patriot Roofing and Construction company in Tarrant County in which he is a co-defendant, a case filed by an Azle resident. It is set for trial in March.
The felony indictment comes not far on the heels of council's censure of the mayor in October after accepting a finding of three city charter violations.