Top D.C. Area Official Nabbed by FBI in Major Corruption Investigation

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Jack and Leslie Johnson both arrested in FBI corruption sweep

The top elected official of Prince George’s county, Maryland, part of the Washington D.C. metro area, was arrested Friday by the FBI on corruption charges. County Executive Jack B. Johnson is alleged to have taken bribes from a local real estate developer who was seeking grant monies in connection with affordable housing projects administered by the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

The arrest resulted from a four-year investigation by the FBI of developers and their associates who provided “things of value to public officials” in exchange for official favors, according to the affidavit that accompanied the criminal complaint. Besides Johnson, 12 arrest warrants were served around the county, and Johnson’s wife Leslie was arrested at their home for evidence tampering and destroying evidence.

The takedown began on Friday morning as FBI agents confronted Johnson at his office following a meeting with a developer who had just given him a $15,000 cash payment to secure his help on a housing project. According to the affidavit, the same developer had been paying Johnson as early as 2007, including in one recent transaction, a check for $100,000. On Nov. 5, in a recorded meeting that was part of a sting operation, the developer gave him $5,000 in cash.

FBI agents searched Johnson and found the $15,000 on him. Johnson claimed that the cash was to help pay for a party that was to be held in his honor marking the end of his second term as county executive. The agents did not arrest him and left the office, but monitored his phone conversations with wiretaps they had place on his phones.

Shortly thereafter, his wife Leslie called from their home, telling him there were agents knocking on the front door. From the wiretaps, Johnson could be heard telling his wife to find the $100,000 check, which was hidden in a box of liquor. “Tear it up! That’s the only thing you have to do” he said. After she asked him if she should flush it down the toilet and he agreed, agents could hear a toilet flushing in the background.

She then asked him what she should do about the cash they had on hand in the house. Johnson instructed his wife to pack it in her underwear. When the FBI entered the house and searched her, she had $79,600 stashed under her clothing.

The U.S. Attorney assigned to the case, Rod Rosenstein, said that the operation was just “the tip of the iceberg” in a much larger criminal investigation among public officials in Prince George’s County. Johnson’s administration has been long criticized for corruption and cronyism since he took office in 2002.

After his first four-year term in office, a Washington Post investigation showed that Johnson had given 51 county contracts to friends and allies totaling about $3.3 million. The investigation also revealed that Johnson and other officials routinely used county-issued credit cards for personal charges. Since then, measures have been put in place requiring regular audit on the accounts.

Prior to his post as County Executive, Johnson was elected for two terms as County Prosecutor. His wife Leslie was recently elected to the Prince George’s County Council earlier this month.

The Washington Post

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