UPDATE: Former County Executive Johnson Indicted on Federal Bribery Charges
Jack Johnson and his wife Leslie were arrested in November 2010.
Update, 5:19 p.m.: U.S. District Attorney Rod Rosenstein announced the eight counts charged to former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson on the steps of the U.S Courthouse in Greenbelt Tuesday.
According to Rosenstein, the latest indictment replaces the original complaint involving Johnson last November. Johnson’s wife, County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, was also charged in that complaint, but she was not named as a defendant in this indictment.
The eight criminal charges are one count of conspiracy, where Johnson entered an agreement with one or more people; three counts of federal program bribery, when Johnson received bribes in connection with programs that receive federal grants; three counts of Hobbs Act, which is extortion under the color of official right and one count of witness and evidence tampering.
“To summarize the allegations, the indictment alleges that defendants engaged in conspiracy to elect illegal payments from public officials in return for government benefits, benefits that allegedly were received by the private citizens include several categories; number one, federal funding; … two, assistance acquiring federal land; number three, approvals and permits for developments and businesses; number four, government jobs and number five, commitments by the government to rent private property.”
Original report: Former Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson could face decades in prison if he is found guilty of charges brought against him today by a federal grand jury.
U.S. District Attorney Rod Rosenstein announced Monday that Johnson, 61, was indicted on federal bribery, extortion, and witness and evidence tampering charges.
“Pay-to-play government is not democratic government,” Rosenstein said in a release. “Anyone who seeks benefits or approvals from the government should be evaluated on the merits, without being extorted for payments or losing out to competitors who pay bribes. Government employees flagrantly abuse the public trust when they take money in return for official acts.”
Rosenstein, FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard McFeely and IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Sparkman made a brief statement about the indictment at 3 p.m. Monday at the Greenbelt courthouse.
“These charges are the result of a long and complex investigation by the FBI in Prince George's County," McFeely said in a release. "Rooting out corruption is the FBI's top criminal priority and one we excel at. This investigation will continue to seek out corrupt officials and acts within all levels of Prince George’s County government. I encourage anyone with direct knowledge of illegal acts or who has any information concerning corrupt officials or acts in Prince George's County to contact the FBI at 410-265-8080.”
Johnson was arrested on Nov. 12, 2010, along with his wife County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, for the eight-count indictment, which details events as far back as 2003. According to the indictment, Johnson conspired with Amrik Singh Melhi — who owned liquor stores throughout Maryland — commercial and residential developers, other public officials and candidates to accept bribes in exchange for Johnson and other public officials to perform favorable actions that benefitted Melhi, developers and business people.
The indictment alleges part of the conspiracy was to conceal campaign contributions and that Johnson and other state and local officials concealed receipts of the excess contributions by failing to report them.
Johnson, whose term as county executive ended in 2010, faces a maximum sentence of five years for the conspiracy, a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of three counts of interference with commerce by extortion. He also faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of three counts of bribery involving the agent of a program receiving federal funds and 20 years in prison for witness and evidence tampering.
No court appearance has been scheduled. Johnson remains under the supervision of U.S. Pretrial Services. Some of the conditions of his release include no financial transactions more than $1,000, without prior approval, no destruction of evidence and no obstruction of justice or hindering the federal investigation.
Breakdown of indictment allegations:
- Concealed campaign contributions above state legal limits were made by Melhi and other developers to Johnson and his wife by using conduits and in-kind contributions.
- Johnson and other state and local officials concealed receipts of excess contributions by not reporting them.
- Johnson received cash and checks, including $100,000 check, from developers in return for Johnson’s help, securing HOME Investment Partnerships funds for developers' projects.
- During a phone call between Johnson and his wife, as federal agents were knocking on the door to execute a search warrant, Johnson instructed his wife to destroy a $100,000 check provided by a developer and to hide cash that was hidden inside the home. He instructed her to flush the check down the toilet and hide the cash in her underwear, which she allegedly did and agents recovered $79,600 from Leslie Johnson.
More on this story as it develops.