WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The trial of a former WFPD motorcycle officer got underway Tuesday, January 24, 2023, in the 30th District Court after a jury of six men and six women were selected on Monday.
Ralph Ryan Piper was indicted by a Wichita County Grand Jury in 2019 for theft over $20,000 and under $100,000. 30th District Judge Jeff McKnight granted a motion to dismiss a charge of money laundering included in the indictment from 2019.
Special Prosecutor Ted Steinke began Tuesday’s proceedings by laying out the State’s case, alleging Piper, with the help of his accomplice, George Michael Wade, stole nearly $70,000 from AT&T.
According to the state, Wade was over maintenance for AT&T. At the same time, Piper had been running a lawn mowing and handyman side business called D-S-T-S-S, or “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff.”
Piper’s company was a regular vendor with AT&T… And they’d completed several projects for them, including lawns and some minor repairs.
In 2014, the elevator at the call center on Kell needed repairs. The initial repair estimate Wade was given was for $78,000, which AT&T allegedly budgeted for. However, Wade received a separate quote from Aspen Elevators to complete the repairs for only $12,000.
The State alleges Piper and Wade schemed together to pocket the more than $66,000 difference. Piper’s defense team, however, claims Piper was unaware of Wade’s scheming and didn’t act with criminal intent.
They allege Wade, who pleaded guilty in 2016 to this crime, was the mastermind, and that Piper got played by Wade.
Wade, who was called as a witness on Tuesday, testified that Piper’s family and his had been close and Steinke established a virtual paper trail, linking the stolen money to the bank account for Piper’s business or for cash withdrawals Wade says were given to Piper.
During cross-examination, the defense brought Wade’s credibility into question after Wade admitted on the stand to having no proof any of the cash was actually given to Piper, and revealing a pattern of lies Wade told during early 2015, most of which were told to his wife, who was next on the stand.
Wade’s wife, Christy, testified through tears that she had no idea any of this was going on, and that her husband was a liar and said she “should’ve left him a long time ago.” She claims when Wade was fired from AT&T as they investigated the fraud, he told her he’d simply been laid off
It wasn’t until July 2015 that Christy Wade found out the extent of her husband and Piper’s alleged crimes after she spoke with Piper on the phone. She alleges Piper said she’d be facing federal charges, and her family would be torn apart if she didn’t stick to “his side of the story”.
Piper was with the WFPD for 15 years prior to being placed on administrative leave without pay in October 2016. According to city officials, he remains on unpaid leave until the trial concludes, at which time they’ll make a decision about his future with the WFPD.
Chris Horgen, Public Information Officer for the City of Wichita Falls, issued the following statement regarding Piper:
“Pursuant to Texas Local Government Code, Mr. Piper was suspended without pay effective October 5, 2016. This suspension will remain in effect until the date of the final disposition of the specified felony indictment. The City of Wichita Falls will not make any determination of Mr. Piper’s employment until the trial concludes and will follow all federal and state laws when making that determination. “— Chris Horgen, City of Wichita Falls
The trial is set to continue on Wednesday, January 25, 2023, weather permitting.
This is a developing story. Stick with Texoma’s Homepage for updates on the trial as more information becomes available.