The Unexpected Guest

Suave, with impeccable but false credentials, "Dennis Shaw" moved easily through River Oaks society.

The Unexpected Guest

Update: Read Part 2 of this series, Friends With Benefits.

To Jennifer Estopinal, something was troubling about her dad Kenneth Jackson's mysterious new friend: a man who called himself "Dennis Shaw."

Estopinal, a vivacious, youthful-looking 48-year-old brunette, says she first heard Jackson mention Shaw in June of 2009, and by the next month, his name was coming up in every conversation. And as a matter of fact, her father told her that he had actually first met Shaw 20 years before, when Shaw would stop and talk with him while Jackson was out checking on his Montrose rental properties. For all those years, the two had been passing acquaintances, but now that Jackson was ailing — he was bed-ridden after suffering a hip injury — the two were becoming inseparable.

A jury decided  Dinesh Shah, pictured shortly after his arrest for beating Kaleta Johnson in 2002, should hand over $20.7 million in damages.
Houston Police Department
A jury decided Dinesh Shah, pictured shortly after his arrest for beating Kaleta Johnson in 2002, should hand over $20.7 million in damages.
Retired FBI agent Kenneth Jackson was 89 and bedridden when "Dennis Shaw" cozied up to him with wildly inflated tales about his gold-plated career and enormous wealth.
Courtesy of Jackson family
Retired FBI agent Kenneth Jackson was 89 and bedridden when "Dennis Shaw" cozied up to him with wildly inflated tales about his gold-plated career and enormous wealth.

According to Jackson, a then-89-year-old retired FBI agent who once worked on the JFK assassination, Shaw was an amazing man. The son of a London-bred half-Indian father and an Englishwoman, Shaw claimed to have grown up on Inwood Street in the heart of River Oaks. The slightly chubby, suave, olive-skinned Shaw also said that he had packed a ton of action into his forty-odd years on the planet. He'd been in the CIA, he said, and he'd graduated from Rice and Harvard Law School. His net worth was approximately $75 million, he said, and he owned both a plane and a yacht.

Estopinal says that Shaw told her father that he spent most of his time in New York, where he had a stunning and successful girlfriend named Deborah and a high-flying career as a corporate attorney. (He claimed to be licensed to practice law in both Texas and New York.) At the moment, Shaw told Jackson, he was back in Houston to tend to the estate of his late father.

"My dad was kinda laughing about it," Estopinal remembers. "He said, 'If this guy is only half of what he says he is, he's something else. But it all seems a bit much.'"

A couple of weeks passed. Estopinal never saw Shaw, but her dad was still talking about him all the time. "Why don't I ever see this guy?" she asked her dad. "Why does he only come by when I'm not here?"

"Yeah, that is kind of strange," her dad said. "He does always come by really late."

Despite her misgivings, Jackson and Shaw continued visiting regularly at Jackson's home on Greenbriar near the Texas Medical Center. Estopinal says that one day Shaw made her dad an offer: While he was in town, Shaw said, he would be more than happy to help Jackson prepare a new version of his will. He would provide this service at no charge, so long as he — Shaw — could be the executor. He would do this, he said, because they were such good friends.

Not coincidentally, Shaw had also become fast friends with Jackson's long-estranged wife Virginia Anne "Ginger" Jackson. At 62, she was 27 years her husband's junior, and according to the divorce petition Kenneth Jackson would file the following year, though they had been married since 1972, the couple had been living separate lives under the same roof since roughly 1995. (Kenneth Jackson would withdraw the divorce petition two days before his death in 2010.)

Though Jackson was a lifelong night owl, Ginger Jackson and Shaw stayed up even later.

"He would hang out with her until 2:30, three in the morning," Estopinal says. "She would come upstairs and take a shower and he would question her and she would say they were just talking and having something to drink. He was working on Ginger. He knew she was more malleable, easily influenced. My dad had his wits about him. He [Shaw] worked on her big-time and she was the one who gave him the money."

Police would later say that Ginger Jackson agreed to give Shaw an amount between $4,000 and $10,000. "The purpose of the money...one thing was said and then another," Estopinal remembers. "[Ginger Jackson] told the police that the money was given to a lawyer to secure her financial future."

(Ginger Jackson was never implicated in any wrongdoing. Indeed, police would later describe her as a pawn rather than a wrongdoer.)

Strange as all that was, Estopinal's sense of alarm grew exponentially after she finally met Shaw at a doctor's appointment he had helped arrange for her father. She started Googling "Dennis Shaw" and came up with little. Thinking he looked Indian, she "Indianized" his name to Dinesh Shah. Since that's a common name, she had to wade through thousands of hits before she found one on a law Web site that chilled her to the bone.

Along with a friend named David Collie, a Dinesh Shah seized control of the entire life of Joan Blaffer Johnson, a River Oaks heiress to a huge ExxonMobil fortune. This Shah had moved in with the woman — a granddaughter of Robert Lee Blaffer, a co-founder of Exxon forerunner Humble Oil — and lived with her for years. He even acted as a quasi-father figure to her children. The arrangement came to a horrifying end.

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33 comments
BeAlert
BeAlert

I don't know what Ms. Johnson's underlying problems are, but no one could blame her kids if they said "bye" forever.

Pjd425
Pjd425

I knew Kaleta from college. It's a very sad story, but I greatly admire her fortitude and strength. I pray a Rosary for her and her family on the first Saturday of every month.

facebook-1540884646
facebook-1540884646

Wow. I just read about this bastard and I know all about him and how he scammed Henry Dyches out of his money. I own a laundry in the Montrose area; Shah would hire caregivers for Dyches (all of them would quit because he wouldn't pay them for their services). Shah would bring the soiled laundry of Dyches to us and would pay with a check and get some cash (of course the check was going to bounce). After about $600 in bad checks, I put a stop to it and then he would pay with a Chase credit card that would always get declined. Then he would profusely apologize and invite me to dinner at Mark's on Westheimer to join him and his entourage. The guy is a real POS.

Jubalearly77
Jubalearly77

Is your business next to Black Hole? You can e-mail me at: jubalearly77@hotmail.com

Goaway
Goaway

Shyam is exactly like his brother. His stories were the same. I'm rich and super nice, now lets talk about you and your assets. He is quite a talker.

MyOpinion20122
MyOpinion20122

Interesting how two men in their 40's continue to use their parent's address at Amblewood on their Driver's Licenses and records. Obviously they are hiding from society because of all the harm they are bringing on to people.

This whole family is manipulative and sick, from the parents who support their sons' abuses of others. The only reason Shyam Shah called the police is because he believed Dinesh would kill someone and that they would be caught. If it had been a beating not leading to being caught, he would have just stood by and let it go on. He also is abusive, violent and crazy.

The parents have been supporting both sons for years as they have known of their abuses towards others. I am certain that the abuse stems from childhood in that family.

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

Please email me at john.lomax@houstonpress.com

Kristi Wallace
Kristi Wallace

I like where MyOpinion was going with that, regarding the brothers' childhood and upbringing... any chance of you writing about their parents (rearing of two monsters)?

Lauren
Lauren

finally a good article from HP. look forward to reading the next installment.

D4m2g0
D4m2g0

He would come into "The House of Pies"late at night, sometimes with young gay white boys that looked a little homeless, other times with an older white man. He would always ask me where my section was. He would usually order a muffin and coffee and sit for a couple of hours talking with his guest. When he was alone he would always try to pick my brain about different things on a street level...tattoo's, piercings, etc. Sometimes I would see him at EJ's (gay bar) trying to pick up young white boys.

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

Please send me your email to john.lomax@houstonpress.com

chef504
chef504

Just when I begin to loose hope and think the HP is turning into a rag yall go and write a damn fine article. An article that reminds me why I have been an avid reader for years no matter what my zip might be at the moment. I will grab the paper on Wed to read the end of this story for-sure. It's hard to get my head around how he was able to spin his web of lies and not trip himself up and show his hand. I can't sell a little lie to my wife without the bullshit alarm going off. I have had plenty of individuals attempt to lie to me, and my rule of thumb is this; Someone that seems to know a little bit about everything, but shows no real passion for one single thing is a liar. Having been in the restaurant business for most of my life I have heard so many ridiculous tales that I have acquired a sixth sense for bullshit. The one constant in all great liars is their inability to never show a passion or commitment to a single thing. The years also never add up. It's very difficult to be more than one place at a time, but their stories always require one to believe it's possible. I once had a guy come in to interview for a job claiming to be this great chef that had done everything in his life from fight as a Green Beret to write a screen play. I let him spin his yarn. At the end of the interview I asked a few questions. He realized he was about to get caught so he stood up and told me that he just couldn't see himself working for me. Poor fella!!

MadMac
MadMac

First-class writing, Mr. Lomax. This is what a paper is supposed to be about.

Nate
Nate

I meet Dennis Shaw around 2006 when I was 22. I dont come from a wealthy family and I really had nothing to offer this man. Anyways I was on a motorcycle ride downtown with a friend.My friend and I stopped at Ninfas on Navigation and thats where I meet Dennis Shaw. He claimed the old man he was with was his father but he looks alot like the old man "Kenneth Jackson". We began to talk about alot of things and he seemed that he new alot about anything that had to do with business or making money. He claimed he owned a drilling rig in east texas and had an office in downtown. Whenever I would try to meet him there he said he was in business meetings all day and would have to meet me later in the evening. We always meet in the evening or late at night. He then one day told me a long story that had to do with his coming out to me that he was gay and wanted me in a homosexual way. I said sorry but Im not gay and then he said neither am I was once married to the daughter of the family of the campbell soup corp. I didnt believe him. He said he had a son that lived in new york and had an apartment there. He also said his son was a great athlete and did so many things. I could go on for hours about all the great things his son as done. One day I told him I lost a very close family member and he said, meet me at Escalante's mexican grill I have a suprise for you. So he took me there and after that got me fitted for a suit at joseph a. banks with all the bells and whistles. A few weeks later he calls me and says to meet him at House of Pies we need to have a little business meeting. We talked about me opening up an account to start buying shares of XOM. Then after all that I told him I got a few tickets cause he once told me he was a lawyer. I gave him my ticket info and about a 6 months later I get warrant ingo in the mail. Well I got lied too there. Any ways after the house of pies thing. He tells me to follow him and we end up at Hotel Derek and he had got a room for us. He said some very nasty things that he wanted me to do to him. Now I never trusted him enough to be alone anywhere with him. So I said to him thanks for what u have done for me but I told you Im not gay and not interested in anything like that. After I told him that he got very very angry and got in his car and speed away. We didnt speak for months after that. About 3 or so months went by and he said he was over seas doing Lawyer work for the CIA. Some time after all that I got into a bad wreck and didnt see him for another 3 months on top of that. He asked me If I ever invested my money into xom and I told him no cause I decided to buy another motorcycle. After I told him that he got really mad. At the time I knew nothing of the con artist dennis shaw. I just knew the dennis shaw that I meet at Ninfas. Theres more to my story I left alot of blanks in between. If you want anymore details email me.

jubalearly77
jubalearly77

what's your e-mail address, Nate?

Nate
Nate

Nate72083@gmail.com

Houston ImPRESSed
Houston ImPRESSed

This is good, like the HP of yore. Who could forget similarly juicy stories like the John Hill murder trial, the Dolcefino assault in Montrose, the bizarre follow-up story on our own Mayor Tootsie, the guy that insured his elderly victims as they were about to die, the River Oaks murder of Robert Angleton's wife, and many many more stories about the imaginative criminals in Houston I've read about over the past 20 years here in this paper. It's the possibility of writing like this that makes me pick it up each week. Thanks for the treat.

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

I was hoping this story would be received like that.

Native Houstonian 1974
Native Houstonian 1974

There is something that has not been addressed, Dinny Shah used to run around with the late Warren Strauss. Warren died last year or in 2009 under mysterious circumstances. I have a feeling that murder is also on Dinny Shah's repertoire. This too needs to be investigated.

jubalearly77
jubalearly77

Prosecutor needs to know this kind of information. Contact A.D.A. Kelli Johnson with what you know, in an effort to keep Shah locked up.

Mark Maniha
Mark Maniha

I was a business associate and friend of the late Warren Strauss for nearly fourteen years. Sadly, Warren passed away at age 78 on November 6, 2009 at his Houston home. The cause of death was a heart attack. There is no mystery nor nefarious undertone to his passing. It was natural causes and in no way relating to Mr. Shaw.

Warren Strauss was a gay gentleman in the community, but he was also a tremendous and generous friend to so many. He left a lasting mark on the Houston real estate, fine art, antiques, and River Oaks social circles.

Warren was a friend to the Johnson family both professionally and personally for many years. It is very likely that he did meet or know Dinesh Shaw during part of that time. It is also most likely that Warren was as 'taken in' and fooled by Mr. Shaw as so many other intelligent and reasonable people who surrounded Joan Johnson and her family. Despite what each individual may think or judge of Warren's sexual proclivity, he was foremost a very decent man who absolutely would have been appalled and disgusted by Mr. Shaw's debauchery, dishonesty, and transgressions toward the Johnson family and the others who have fallen prey to his schemes.

jubalearly77
jubalearly77

Seems Shah has a knack for seeking out decent people, like your friend Warren Strauss. However, Shah didn't make friends, he made 'links' to what he wanted. There are drugs that can induce heart attacks. Too many things have been swept under the rug, therefore enabling Shah to get away with so much. Dying peacefully at home does not rule out foul play. If sociopath Shah spent time with your friend, he was no friend to him. Its would not be in Shah's nature.

Guest
Guest

Like one of the old Dominick Dunne stories in Vanity Fair - juicy and intriguing. Nicely done.

Don John
Don John

Lomax, I seriously love the direction your writing career has taken. This is the most fascinating, well-put-together article I've seen the HP publish in a long, long time. Can't wait to read the next installment!

Luther Poach
Luther Poach

Crazy. I just finished reading Monster in River Oaks. From what I read, the brother Shyam was totally the hero of this story. I hope his life turns out okay because he seems like a decent guy.

Discussion2011
Discussion2011

Shyam Shah is not decent, he drops from the same tree. He abused his wife in similar ways that his brother did, is a chronic liar, alcoholic and though he has a bachelor's degree works as a limosine driver to get close to money. The whole family is scum.

Matt
Matt

The brother was abusive too. He just couldn't fathom the level that the bully took it to.

Not a decent guy.

 
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