Friends with Benefits

Dinesh Shah was adept at insinuating himself into people’s lives

Friends with Benefits
 Last week in "The Unexpected Guest," we told you the story of Dennis Shaw, a fortysomething man who suddenly insinuated himself into the life of Kenneth Jackson and how Jackson's daughter Jennifer Estopinal discovered his real identity as Dinesh Shah. Even before she learned the truth, Estopinal had grown increasingly concerned with the growing influence Shah was having on her elderly father, a retired FBI agent living in the Old Braeswood neighborhood near the Medical Center. Her investigation uncovered the facts that Shah had been convicted in criminal court of abusing one of the children of Exxon heiress Joan Blaffer Johnson and a civil court jury found that he'd beaten two of the Johnson children and sexually molested one of them — and assessed Shah $20 million in damages.

In Part Two, we pick up the story as Shah, on probation, continues his activities, exerting influence over Jackson and involving himself in other people's lives, to their detriment.

In July of 2009, Henry Dyches passed away at the age of 79. Dinesh Shah had known Dyches — an old-school, South Carolinian Southern gentleman who spent his twilight years tutoring River Oaks children in Spanish and swimming — since the mid-1990s. In fact, it was Dyches — whom Shah met at the Museum District apartment complex where they were neighbors — who unwittingly orchestrated Shah's initial meeting of Joan Blaffer Johnson.

According to police, Dinesh Shah, pictured here at the scene of his 2009 arrest on Jack Street in Montrose, attempted to pass himself off as the attorney of an octogenarian retired FBI agent. Shah allegedly even went so far as to attempt to arrange the man's funeral.
Courtesy of Houston Police Department
According to police, Dinesh Shah, pictured here at the scene of his 2009 arrest on Jack Street in Montrose, attempted to pass himself off as the attorney of an octogenarian retired FBI agent. Shah allegedly even went so far as to attempt to arrange the man's funeral.
This 1976 Ford Elite once belonged to "Dave Martin," a man Dinesh Shah befriended in 2007. After Shah praised Martin's car in a supermarket parking lot, the two men started hanging out. Shah promised Martin he could make him money trading commodities. Instead, Martin says, Shah eventually made off with more than $9,000, a vintage hat and watch, and, finally, his beloved Elite.
This 1976 Ford Elite once belonged to "Dave Martin," a man Dinesh Shah befriended in 2007. After Shah praised Martin's car in a supermarket parking lot, the two men started hanging out. Shah promised Martin he could make him money trading commodities. Instead, Martin says, Shah eventually made off with more than $9,000, a vintage hat and watch, and, finally, his beloved Elite.

Shah took charge of Dyches's funeral arrangements and even claimed to be his nephew on his death certificate. In the obituary that ran in Dyches's hometown paper in South Carolina, "Dennis Shaw" is quoted at length and described as Dyches's "long-time" friend.

Houston Police Department Sergeant Reginore Anderson says that shortly after Dyches's burial, what appears to have been Dyches's entire estate cycled through Shah's bank account and vanished to shelters unknown. Rumor had it that Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kelli Johnson, the prosecutor in two cases Shah would eventually be charged with, wanted to have Dyches's body exhumed and tested for poison. When asked if this was true, after a long and very pregnant pause, Johnson said that she would neither confirm nor deny the rumor. An exhumation warrant was never issued.

Days after the death of one elderly buddy, Shah turned his attention to another: Kenneth Jackson, who was almost 90 years old and bedridden because of a hip injury. At the time, Jackson was still sharing a home with his much-younger wife Ginger Jackson, though the couple had been estranged since 1995.

Jackson had been on Shah's radar for years, and now, in the summer of 2009, Shah apparently deemed it the time to strike. He spent many long nights at the Jackson home, speaking to Kenneth Jackson until the old man finally fell asleep, and then going downstairs for some quality time with Ginger, who was growing increasingly concerned with her financial future.

"At any given moment he might have had one prime target, but I think he was constantly working other angles, other people," says Heath Bounds, a cop with HPD's Central Patrol who worked officially on the Joan Johnson case and served as an informal consultant on another.

Before July was out, Kenneth Jackson's daughter Jennifer Estopinal (Ginger Jackson's stepdaughter) was increasingly concerned with her dad's declining health. In her words, he was going down fast and it seemed like something far more serious than his hip fracture. 

"Once the pieces of the puzzle started to come together, I started to think that he was poisoning this guy," says Anderson. "Because the guy was in pretty decent shape, then all of a sudden, right after he met him, things started to deteriorate. He couldn't stand; he was throwing up, lost a lot of weight, and he was a little man to begin with. And then both the wife and the daughter told me he was feeding him all the time. Who wants to feed an eightysomething-year-old man, when you're not even really around the guy, you're not really anything to him?"

Even as his health continued to fail, Jackson steadfastly refused to see a doctor. Estopinal was very busy — she had just returned from a two-week trip to the Caribbean and one of her children had become sick and required hospitalization — she took the time to call Adult Protective Services and ask them to check in on her dad. On July 31, a caseworker visited Jackson and talked him into going to see a doctor. It was his buddy "Dennis" who actually made the appointment with Dr. Sam Siegler for August 6.

Since he declined to comment for this article, one can only guess at what Dr. Siegler thought when he saw the curious entourage in his waiting room. There was Kenneth Jackson in his wheelchair, along with his caretakers Julio and Mercedes Mendoza. Estopinal was there too, meeting Shah for the very first time. Estopinal says that Shah was "all self-important," and that he was "ordering Julio and Mercedes around like they [were] ninnies, and my dad just didn't treat them that way."

Reading from his case file, Anderson quotes Siegler as saying that Shah strode over to him and told him that he was Jackson's attorney, and what's more, a graduate of Harvard Law. Shah stressed that Siegler needed to take good care of his "long-time friend" Jackson, the retired FBI agent turned, in Shah's words, "real estate tycoon." Shah told Siegler that Jackson needed him around to fend off the charlatans who continually pestered and attempted to chisel him. It seemed to Siegler that it was "exorbitantly important" for Shah to persuade him how important he — Dinesh Shah — was. It didn't work. Siegler, the husband of flamboyant former Harris County prosecutor Kelly Siegler, seems to share her cop gene. He noted that Shah's cheap suit was "inconsistent with his grandiosity." 

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27 comments
scottcdallas
scottcdallas

I just started reading this article and realized that I knew Denny back in the 90's.   I was attending the Art Institute of Houston and one of my class mates dated Denny.  They were actually in a serious relationship.   After i left school and relocated to another state,  I heard that my class mate Michael Holstein had disappeared and I am not sure if he was ever found.   I always suspected Denny had something to do with it because he was very controlling of Michael. Denny also  like the finer things in life.  If I remember correctly he drove a vintage Mercedes convertible and acted as though he was a multimillionaire.   Does anyone know about the Michael Holstein disappearance back in the 1990's and if he was ever found?

Daugherty703
Daugherty703

do you think it would bring glory to this pice of shit if you wrote a book. Do not give him the satitsfaction. I would be glad to share imformation with you John Lomax

Tommy Manning
Tommy Manning

We with Disabilities have to help one another cope with are challenges of being Disabled

Vintom Lebowski
Vintom Lebowski

He needs to be put on a farm and forced to do manual labor. The TDCJ has many prison farms south of Houston, and he needs to be put on them!

Heather
Heather

This whole story is fascinating, great job!!

Attyrose3
Attyrose3

A couple of corrections: Sam Siegler is Kelly Siegler's husband, not her brother. Dr. Siegler is Chuck Rosenthal's email buddy. Dr. Siegler is the one Mr. Rosenthal was sharing racist/sexist jokes with that caused such a stir, bringing down down Mr. Rosenthal's reigh as the Harris County District Attorney.

The Barbeque Inn is on 43rd Street, not Yale.

Geezy
Geezy

One more thing I forgot to add. Whomever drew the cover picture is a badass. Seriously, look at it and then scroll down and look at the picture of him standing in the street in front of the van. Sans the glasses, it's a split image. That's some scary shit.

Chearen
Chearen

Sam Siegler and Kelly Siegler are husband and wife, not brother and sister.

chef504
chef504

George C Scott had nothing on this Flim Flam Man. Lomax this story was incredible! Every line better than the rest. This totally redeems the HP from the last few shit stories and gives HP ample credit for the inevitable suck that will soon wash over the news stands. It's so hard to fathom that so many seemingly intelligent people would fall victim to his shit. fought in secret missions with former SS commandos in the 80's. GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE. It's not my custom to wish bodily harm on anyone, but I am known to make exceptions. Great fucking story!!

Geezy
Geezy

Lomax, the visual details are unbelievable. This is probably one of the most insane stories I've ever read. Good stuff.

htown'sfinest
htown'sfinest

I always enjoy your pieces. Really looked forward to this second part. Please keep us updated on Dinesh and continue to out the frauds of Houston

guest
guest

If ever there was a poster child for sociopaths, this guy strikes me as it.

MadMac
MadMac

Again, Mr. Lomax, first-class writing.

stwilhelm
stwilhelm

I have found this two part story quite interesting. Just goes to show you that you really need to make sure you a know a person before you trust them!

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

Please do contact me Daugherty -- if you are who I think you are I've been wanting to talk to you for a long time.

Rbc92182
Rbc92182

There's already a book. _Monster in River Oaks_. The whole first part of this article is basically lifted from its pages

jubalearly77
jubalearly77

It would surely not be written by Lomax in that fashion. A well written book would serve to expose this POS for what he is, serves as a warning to the public.

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

Most definitely. All of the people I've talked to who know Shah say the resemblance is literally breath-taking.

MadMac
MadMac

And really, short of blood, (family) or marriage, you can't know anyone enough to trust them. I read a story like this and I know I did the right thing by admitting my Mom to a nursing home when her Alzheimer's progressed. The money and belongings don't mean anything compared to the abuse and damage a clown like this can cause.

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

Honestly, I never did finish reading that book. I used the same sources Phillips did -- court records. There was no way I could develop a full picture of Shah's evil without retelling the River Oaks crimes.

montroseinsider
montroseinsider

The article is written very differently from that book. Article touches on what the book solely focuses on, one family in River Oaks, but the HP article reveals people Dinesh Shah (aka Dinny, Dennis) moved on to after that, like the elderly retired FBI, agent, the male ballet dancer, other young men Shah pursued and the bit about Shah's brother Shyam (aka Shawn Haley or Matt Haley), which is not in the book. A real true crime about the Shahs is in order and maybe Lomax will choose to take it on. I hope so.

Geezy
Geezy

You've put together quite a few side articles on this with a tad more personal information about people who've ran into him, etc. I'd be curious to see a first hand piece on your experiences, observations and feelings as you were putting this story together. That could probably be just as interesting as the story itself.

Not only are we surprised about how utterly fucking crazy this story is, but how someone can pull this off for this long..... Speechless

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

Please email me at john.lomax@houstonpress.com. Your confidentiality is assured.

monstrose insider
monstrose insider

Shah was able to carry on for all these years due to his method of isolating his victims, intimidating them into silence. Some are ashamed to come forward and/or afraid of him. He's done a lot of harm, more than could ever be fit into a two part article in the Houston Press.

 
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