Former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson Indicted on Federal Bribery, Extortion, and Witness and Evidence Tampering Charges

Allegedly Solicited and Received Bribe Payments in Exchange for Obtaining Millions in Government Housing Funds and Other Benefits

GREENBELT, MD—A federal grand jury returned an indictment today charging former Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson, age 61, of Mitchellville, Maryland, with conspiracy, extortion, and bribery related to the performance of his official duties, and tampering with a witness and evidence.

The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein, Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Sparkman of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.

“Pay-to-play government is not democratic government,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “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.”

Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said, “These charges are the result of a long and complex investigation by the FBI in Prince George's County. 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.”

“Crimes committed by public officials violate the public trust,” stated Rebecca Sparkman, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Washington D.C. Field Office. “The IRS-Criminal Investigation is working with the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office to ensure that all Americans, including our public officials, are held to the same standard.”

According to the eight-count indictment, from 2003 through November 12, 2010, Johnson conspired with others, including Amrik Singh Melhi, who owned a number of liquor stores in Maryland; commercial and residential developers; other public officials; candidates for elected office; and others to accept bribes in exchange for Johnson and other public officials using their influence and agreeing to perform favorable official actions, to benefit Amrik Melhi, developers, business people, and their companies. The indictment alleges that it was part of the conspiracy to conceal campaign contributions above state legal limits made by Amrik Melhi, developers and others to Jack Johnson, his wife, Leslie Johnson, and other candidates, by utilizing conduits and in-kind contributions. The indictment alleges that Johnson and other state and local elected officials concealed their receipt of the excess contributions by failing to report them; misrepresenting their nature and value; and by failing to fully and accurately report in-kind contributions.

The Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development (“DHCD”) administered the HOME Investment Partnerships program, which provides federal grants to states and localities to fund the construction, purchase, and/or rehabilitation of affordable housing for rent or home-ownership. The indictment alleges that Jack Johnson received cash and checks, including a $100,000 check, and other benefits from developers in return for Johnson’s help, in his official capacity as county executive, in securing HOME funds for the developers’ projects, obtaining a waiver of HOME Program regulations; assisting in the acquisition of surplus property and land from the county for development by certain developers; providing co-conspirators with non-public county information; obtaining necessary state and local approvals and permits for certain developments and businesses in the county; obtaining employment with the county; obtaining county funding for certain developments and businesses in the county; and securing county commitments to lease property from certain developers at developments in the county.

Further, the indictment alleges that just prior to his arrest on November 12, 2010, Jack Johnson and Leslie Johnson exchanged a series of telephone calls. The indictment alleges that during one of those calls, as federal agents were knocking on the door of the home to execute a search warrant, Johnson told his wife to destroy the $100,000 check provided to Johnson by a developer and to hide cash that he had hidden in their home. Specifically, the indictment alleges that Johnson told his wife to flush the check down the toilet and hide the cash in her underwear, which she allegedly did. When Mrs. Johnson didn’t answer the door, the federal agents entered the home. The agents searched Leslie Johnson and recovered approximately $79,600.

The indictment seeks forfeiture of any property which constitutes or is derived from the proceeds of Johnson’s alleged illegal activities, including the $79,600 in cash recovered during the search on November 12, 2010.

Amrik Singh Melhi, age 51, of Clarksville, is charged in a separate indictment with conspiring to commit extortion under color of official right in a scheme involving the transport and distribution of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol. No court date has been set and Melhi remains detained. Prince George’s County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, age 58, of Mitchellville, Maryland, has been charged by criminal complaint with tampering with a witness and evidence relating to the commission of a federal offense; and destruction, alteration and falsification of records in a federal investigation. No court appearance has been scheduled for Leslie Johnson.

Jack Johnson 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 under color of official right; a maximum sentence 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 over $1,000, without prior approval; no destruction of evidence; and no obstruction of justice or hindering the federal investigation.

An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI and IRS-CI for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys James A. Crowell IV, A. David Copperthite and Sujit Raman, who are prosecuting the case.