The Dallas Bar Association, or DBA, announced the Dallas-based WFAA-TV team of Tanya Eiserer, Rick Rysso, and Mark Smith as the 2023 Stephen Philbin Award grand prize winner during the DBA’s Fellows Luncheon on October 25.
The team’s entry, titled “Broken Trust,” discovered that the small town of Onalaska, Texas, was the epicenter of a practice that allowed foreign nationals to transfer ownership of their planes to U.S. trust companies, according to a press release. The team uncovered one company that allowed drug traffickers to disguise ownership of their planes. The piece spurred on a federal investigation that led to drug and money laundering charges, the discovery of a $240 million Ponzi scheme, and a $1 billion disruption to drug cartel flights, according to a press release. The WFAA team received a $12,000 cash award for its entry.