WASHINGTON – A Harris County, Texas, commissioner and a Houston-based real estate developer have been charged with bribery conspiracy in an indictment returned yesterday by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.
The indictment, unsealed today, charges Gerald R. Eversole, 67, and Michael D. Surface, 50, each with one count of conspiring to commit federal program bribery, and each with one count of federal programs bribery. Eversole was also charged with two counts of making a false statement on his federal tax return by failing to report things of value allegedly provided to him by Surface.
According to the indictment, from August 2000 through October 2007, Surface provided Commissioner Eversole with a series of things of value both directly and indirectly, including checks written directly to Commissioner Eversole, cashier’s checks provided to Commissioner Eversole, payments made to third parties, a loan guarantee, and travel and entertainment expenses. The indictment alleges that during the same time period Commissioner Eversole was accepting these things of value, Surface sought and obtained at least five lucrative Harris County contracts. These included contracts to house Harris County offices, as well as a construction maintenance contract. The indictment alleges that Commissioner Eversole repeatedly voted to award contracts to Surface and entities controlled by Surface, as well as used his official position to ensure funding for these contracts.
The indictment also alleges that Commissioner Eversole repeatedly voted to appoint Surface as chairman of the board of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation, a quasi-governmental organization charged with overseeing Reliant Stadium and Reliant Park.
The indictment alleges that Eversole and Surface sought to conceal their relationship by, among other things, using cashier’s checks and payments to third parties. The indictment alleges that Surface also actively sought to conceal his presence in two of the contracts so as to avoid scrutiny, and that Eversole concealed his acceptance of the things of value by filing false financial disclosure forms with the Harris County clerk.
The maximum penalty for the conspiracy charge is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charge of federal program bribery carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each count of making a false statement carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
This case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Mary K. Butler and Trial Attorney John P. Pearson of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case was investigated by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigation.