Documents speak of widespread conspiracy in Prince George's
Updated: May 18, 2011 - 07:15 pm
The investigation into corruption in Prince George's county may spread to other officials after Jack Johnson pleaded guilty to two charges Tuesday.
In documents released that same day, U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein writes the investigation is targeting other individuals.
An as-yet-unreported plea deal made by developer Patrick Ricker in 2009 describes a conspiracy which involved a "stream of things of value." These ran from money to trip expenses, meals, drinks, hotel rooms, airline tickets, rounds of golf and even sexual services provided to people in the executive branch, the county council and the school board.
In exchange, the plea lays out a "stream of official acts" by those officials. The officials are not named.
“I’m not going to be able to comment on anybody who hasn't been charged,” Rosenstein said.
Court records show that as part of the investigation of Ricker and others in 2008 the FBI searched the home of former councilman Thomas Hendershot.
Former Prince George's County executive Johnson, facing extortion and bribery charges in federal court, has pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of extortion and one count of evidence tampering.
Six counts will be dropped. Johnson entered his plea in federal court.
“I want to say to the citizens of our county that I’m very sorry for what happened,” Johnson said.
U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said that not long after taking office in 2002, Johnson began to squeeze developers for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts in exchange for government favors.
“It was, in brief, a pay-to-play scheme,” Rosenstein said. “Jack Johnson took an oath to serve the public but instead he served himself.”
A sentencing agreement between the government and Johnson suggests that Johnson could get 10 years behind bars. The judge, who is responsible for sentencing, is not bound by the agreement.
Federal sentencing guidelines call for him to receive between 11 and 13 years in prison. Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 15.
Meanwhile, residents tell ABC7 News they're "hopeful" that the county can move past all of this.
One man involved in the scandal was at work Tuesday
Meanwhile, the Laurel doctor who wrote checks worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to Johnson was at work Tuesday.
Dr. Mirza Baig appeared in good spirits at his Laurel office. A conversation between Johnson and Baig, a long-time friend and former business partner, led to the raid on Johnson's home last November. Baig wrote the check which Johnson's wife Leslie allegedly tried to flush down the toilette during the raid.
When asked about cooperating with federal agents investigating his friend, the 67-year-old offered this response, “Keep up the good work you do the wonderful work and you need to support us.”
Baig received millions in federal grants and development deals in Prince George's county. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion. Johnson and a subordinate allegedly gave favors to the doctor and developer. Baig cooperated with investigators but still could get five years in jail.
A mark on Prince George's county
“While Jack Johnson’s guilty plea today shines a bright light on the crimes he and his associates committed, it is not the end of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in Prince George’s County,” said Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday.
Federal agents arrested Johnson and his wife, county councilmember-elect Leslie Johnson, after raiding Johnson's home and offices in November. He was indicted in February on charges of extortion, bribery, witness and evidence tampering and conspiracy.
Authorities said the charges against Leslie Johnson aren't affected by her husband's plea agreement.
“The really good things that come out of the county are not what people consider when they look at us. They take a look at the marks against the county and I’m just saddened that that is a mark against the county,” said Prince George's resident Stephanie Cochran.
Current County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III, released a statement saying, "The news about the former County Executive is by no means reflective of the people of Prince George’s County or employees of its government." He continued, "we have made appropriate moves to improve our processes."
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