Prince George’s County Developer and Physician Sentenced To 18 Months in Prison for Federal Extortion Conspiracy
Greenbelt, Maryland - United States District Judge Peter J. Messitte sentenced Dr. Mirza Hussain Baig, age 68, of Burtonsville, Maryland, today to 18 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit extortion for paying bribes to former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson and to the former Director of Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development, James Johnson, in exchange for their assistance on official matters. Judge Messitte also entered an order requiring Baig to pay a fine of $50,000 and to forfeit $250,000.
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.
“Today's sentencing again emphasizes that public officials and those who conspire with them will be held accountable,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Eric Hylton. “The public has the right to know that those who work for them are doing so honestly. When bribery schemes like this one are discovered, we will do everything in our power to hold both the bribe
payer and the person accepting the bribe accountable.”
Mirza Baig is a physician and the president of Laurel Lakes Primary Care, LLC located in Laurel, Maryland. Further, Baig owned Baig Ventures, which was a commercial and residential developer in the County since at least 1992.
According to Baig’s guilty plea, from 2006 through at least October 27, 2010, Baig was part of a conspiracy in which Baig and others provided money, campaign contributions, and other things of value to Jack Johnson, James Johnson and other public officials in Prince George’s County in exchange for their official assistance on various matters. In exchange for the bribes, Jack Johnson, James Johnson, and other County officials performed and agreed to perform favorable official actions for Baig and other conspirators. 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, including Baig; providing Baig and other conspirators with non-public County information; obtaining employment with the County for certain individuals; obtaining necessary state and local approvals and permits for certain developments; and, securing County commitments to lease property from certain developers at developments in the County.
For example, on August 15, 2010, Baig gave Jack Johnson $12,000 in cash and a $3,000 check for a candidate for public office, in exchange for Jack Johnson’s assistance in several County matters, including obtaining County employment for one of Baig’s associates. In February 2010, Baig was overheard by law enforcement agreeing to provide $50,000 to Jack Johnson in exchange for Johnson’s assistance in getting an associate of Baig’s employment as a physician at Prince George’s Hospital Center. After Baig’s associate was appointed, Baig provided Jack Johnson with a cashier’s check for $50,000, which Johnson ultimately returned because he feared being caught trying to cash it. Instead Baig agreed to provide Jack Johnson with incremental cash payments totaling $50,000. In an intercepted telephone call in June 2010, after Baig had requested assistance from Jack Johnson in obtaining County employment for another individual, Jack Johnson is overheard reminding Baig that he had not received the $150,000 he expected for getting Baig’s associate appointed as a physician at Prince George’s Hospital Center.
Baig also provided money to Jack Johnson and James Johnson in return for their official assistance in obtaining HOME funds for at least two of Baig’s development projects in the County.
Fifteen of 16 defendants have been convicted in the related investigations of corruption in Prince George’s County.
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. James Edward Johnson, age 67, of Temple Hills, Maryland, was sentenced to 37 months in prison for conspiracy to commit extortion.
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.