Former Prince George’s County Housing Director James Johnson Sentenced for Federal Extortion Conspiracy
15 of 16 Defendants Have Pleaded Guilty in Related Investigations of Prince George’s County Corruption
Greenbelt, Maryland - United States District Judge Peter J. Messitte sentenced former Director of Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) James Edward Johnson, age 67, of Temple Hills, Maryland, today to 37 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit extortion. Judge Messitte also entered an order requirin James Johnson to pay a fine of $25,000 and to forfeit $46,300 that was seized from his safe deposit box.
The sentence 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 Eric C. Hylton of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.
In September 2009, James Johnson was appointed to serve as the Director of DHCD, which administered the HOME Investment Partnerships program to provide federal grants to states and localities to fund the construction, purchase and/or rehabilitation of affordable housing for rent or home-ownership. As Housing Director, James Johnson had authority to recommend which developers would receive HOME funds for development projects in the County and to grant the developers exceptions from regulatory requirements.
According to his guilty plea, from 2006 to at least October 19, 2010, James Johnson conspired with former County Executive Jack Johnson, developer Patrick Ricker, physician/developer Mirza Baig and other business persons and public officials in the County to commit extortion, by public officials obtaining things of value, including campaign donations, checks and money.
In exchange for the bribes, James Johnson and other county officials performed and agreed to perform favorable official actions for Baig, Ricker and other developers and their companies in the County. The official acts included obtaining a waiver of a HOME Program regulation, securing millions of dollars in HOME funds; assisting in the acquisition of surplus property and land from the County for development by certain developers; providing the conspirators with non-public County information; and obtaining necessary state and local approvals and permits for certain developments in the County.
James Johnson was paid between $400,000 and $1 million in bribes in connection with the scheme.
Jack B. Johnson, age 63, of Mitchellville, Maryland was sentenced to 87 months in prison for his leadership role in the extortion conspiracy and tampering with a witness and evidence.
Dr. Mirza Hussain Baig, age 68, of Burtonsville, Maryland, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion in connection with paying bribes to Jack Johnson and James Johnson. Patrick Q. Ricker, age 53, of Bowie, Maryland, pleaded guilty to his participation in the conspiracy and to tax evasion. Baig and Ricker face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and are scheduled to be sentenced on May 3 and June 11, 2012, respectively.
Fifteen of 16 defendants have been convicted in the related investigations of corruption in Prince George’s County.
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 prosecuted these cases.