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Coria's longtime friend, Enrique Chavez, described Coria as a decent man, though not a sophisticated one. Chavez, who runs a ballroom in West Dallas, said his friend is "a genius when it comes to handling money" yet "terrible with numbers" — an entrepreneur who spits out calculations in his head but relies on his sons to write down phone digits.

Chavez said he's warned Coria not to keep so much cash around.

"Cash generates suspicions, and I won't lie to you, I've had my own suspicions, " said Chavez, who called himself Coria's personal adviser. "But I would say I'm almost sure, 90 percent sure, he's not involved in dirty money."

But allegations have followed Coria since his first arrest.

In a series of undercover operations in 2010, the Texas Department of Public Safety sold Coria and his relatives what they believed were stolen goods, the agency alleged in a report. No one was charged in that case.

Nor did the DEA agents charge Coria after seizing the drug-tainted cash in 2011, though he did spend several weeks in jail.

He was back in a cell in 2014, when U.S. border protection agents stopped him after a trip to Mexico. They were concerned his theft conviction might make him ineligible to return to the United States, according to records in Coria's Denton court file. But he was eventually cleared.

For his problems in the United States, Coria again blamed biased police and rivals jealous of his success, which is evident across West Dallas.

* * *

Coria walked from his store through the blocks flanking Singleton, passing land he'd bought from the city, new brick houses he'd built and yet more still underway.

He walked past some construction workers sawing in the yard and into one of the houses he built. He showed off sun-drenched rooms with high ceilings and intricate trim — much nicer than anything Habitat for Humanity builds, he said.

Long after leaving Mexico, he said, he's become a benefactor in his village — sending money back for the elderly and disabled in Angao. Now many in Dallas see him that way too. Kitchen workers and house painters with small children — sometimes his buyers show up on his porch with chocolates or other gifts of gratitude.

"Where I live they didn't even want to give me a lease and you trusted in us and you gave us the house, " one buyer told Coria, he said, as a smile lifted his little mustache.



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