Prince George’s County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson Pleads Guilty to Crime of Conspiring to Obstruct Federal Corruption Investigation

GREENBELT, MD—Prince George’s County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, age 59, of Mitchellville, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to the charge of conspiracy to commit witness and evidence tampering in order to obstruct a federal corruption investigation.

The guilty plea 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 Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.

“We hope that this sordid tale of corruption will help usher in a new era of honest government,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Every government official in Maryland swears to serve faithfully without partiality or prejudice, but some officials are tempted to violate that oath. Honest government requires meaningful checks and balances that deter corrupt officials from abusing their power and detect them when they betray the public trust.”

“Leslie Johnson’s criminal actions, which occurred after the November elections, violated the very essence of fairly representing her constituents who elected her to office,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard McFeely. “A willing partner in her husband’s attempts to destroy the evidence that implicated his own corrupt acts, today’s conviction is a major step forward in bringing to justice those elected officials who have violated the trust bestowed upon them.”

Acting IRS Special Agent in Charge Jeanine Hammett stated, “We are pleased to have lent our financial investigative expertise to this investigation. Those who line their pockets from illegal activities such as this one should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable. The public has the right to know that those who work for them are doing so honestly.”

According to her plea agreement, on November 12, 2010, Leslie Johnson was at home in Mitchellville when FBI and IRS agents knocked on the door with a federal search warrant authorizing a search of the house she shared with her husband, Jack B. Johnson. Leslie Johnson had just been elected to serve as a member of the Prince George’s County Counsel, and Jack Johnson had been serving as the elected Prince George’s County Executive for almost eight years.

While the agents were knocking on the door and announcing that they were federal officers with a search warrant, Leslie Johnson called Jack Johnson. Jack Johnson told her to go to the bedroom and to find and tear up a $100,000 check that a developer had given to Jack Johnson in return for his help in securing funds for the developer’s projects. Leslie Johnson asked Jack Johnson whether she should flush the check down the toilet, then she did flush it down the toilet.

Leslie Johnson also asked Jack Johnson whether she should conceal cash that was stored in the bedroom and in the basement. Leslie Johnson then stashed $79,600 in cash in her underwear and bra and tried to leave the house, but she was stopped and searched by federal agents.

Leslie Johnson’s goal was to impair the evidence’s integrity and availability for use in the ongoing federal criminal investigation and any subsequent federal criminal proceedings.

Leslie Johnson faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte has scheduled sentencing for October 13, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. Leslie Johnson also will forfeit proceeds of the scheme, including $79,600 in cash.

Jack B. Johnson, age 62, of Mitchellville, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to an extortion conspiracy relating to the performance of his official duties; and tampering with a witness and evidence. Johnson faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of those charges. Judge Messitte set sentencing for Jack Johnson on September 15, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.

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.