Former Prince George’s County (Md.) Executive Jack Johnson had to sign court documents admitting he told his wife to take cash and “stuff it down your panties” as FBI agents knocked on the door prepared to search their home.
But aside from the embarrassing details that made Johnson and his wife Leslie a punchline, the facts that Johnson admitted to in a plea agreement filed Tuesday show he was taking in some serious bribes from developers in exchange for political favors.
Following Johnson’s guilty plea, the federal judge in Maryland unsealed three related cases involving millions of dollars in federal housing grants.
The Justice Department said in a statement that Mirza Baig, a physician and owner of Baig Ventures, and Patrick Ricker, a licensed real estate broker in Maryland and the president of Ricker Brothers Inc., offered things of value, including “money; trip expenses; meals; drinks; hotel rooms; airline tickets; rounds of golf; employment; mortgage payments; and monetary; and in-kind campaign contributions” to Johnson and other state and local government officials.
Another case against the former director of the Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development, James Edward Johnson, was also unsealed (he’s unrelated to Jack Johnson). He pleaded guilty back in January, Baig in April. Ricker pleaded guilty back in December 2009 to tax evasion, conspiring to commit honest services fraud and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission. He appears to have cooperated with the investigation which snagged Jack Johnson.
Leslie Johnson, a member of the County Council, wasn’t in court when her husband submitted the plea deal admitting he solicited donations to her political campaign and telling her to to flush a check down the toilet and stuff cash in her underwear. Instead, she was a County Council hearing, where she headed out the back to avoid reporters. Federal officials said in a statement that Leslie Johnson’s case isn’t affected by her husband’s guilty plea.
Ricker said that public officials hid the items he bribed them with. Said DOJ:
According to Ricker’s plea agreement, state and local officials concealed items they received from Ricker and his co-conspirators by failing to report them or by misrepresenting their nature and value. Further, Ricker and his co-conspirators concealed campaign contributions to the state and local officials that were above state and federal legal limits by using conduits and in-kind contributions. Specifically, Ricker admitted that he recruited “straw donors,” including family members and employees, to make state and federal campaign contributions with funds provided by or reimbursed by Ricker and his co-conspirators. Ricker also provided in-kind contributions to conceal the actual amount of his campaign contributions, such as campaign signs, food, alcohol and the administrative services of their employees and family members.
In a statement of facts filed along with Johnson’s plea agreement, the former Democratic official admitted that Baig gave him cash payments in amounts between $1,000 and $5,000. He also admitted that A. Melhi called Johnson to ask for assistance with a bill which would have allowed his liquor stores to stay open until 3 a.m.
Jack Johnson and James Johnson also helped Baig obtain funds from programs supported by federal grants like the HOME Investment Partnership, run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), according to Johnson’s plea agreement. Baig gave Johnson a $100,000 check which was post-dated so it could not be cashed until after Johnson’s term as executive ended.
The former county executive admitted receiving up to $1 million in gifts from developers. The 62-year-old will face 11 to 13 years in federal prison when he’s sentenced on Sept. 15.
“I want to say to all citizens of Prince George’s County that I am sorry for what happened,” Johnson told reporters outside the federal courthouse. “We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of the Lord.”
Here’s how the statement of facts Johnson agreed to ends: