A Prince George’s County building inspector has been charged with attempted extortion and other related counts after police say he tried to force a Clinton restaurant owner to hire his band for $1,000 a week — and threatened to revoke the restaurant’s permits if he could not play the gig.
John Brown, 52, of Clinton, was arrested Thursday after police say he negotiated his band’s price down to $550 with an undercover police officer posing as the newly hired entertainment manger for Levi’s Restaurant on Coventry Way. The undercover operation, officials said, came after the restaurant’s staff called police to complain that Brown had been threatening to pull their permits and shut them down if they did not hire his band, Intimate Sounds.
Julie Parker, a Prince George’s County police spokesman, said Brown was wearing his county ID badge and driving his county car when he was arrested. She said he has since been released on personal recognizance. Adam Ortiz, the director of the county’s Department of Environmental Resources, said he was suspended with pay while the investigation continues.
Reached by phone, Brown declined to comment, saying he was seeking the advice of an attorney.
“When the true story comes out, then everybody will know,” Brown said.
According to officials and police charging documents, Brown, who was hired by the county in September 2007, began frequenting Levi’s as a patron after going there for work in March 2012. At some point, according to the documents, Brown suggested to the owner that he should hire his band to play Saturday nights — for $1,000 a night. The owner said he left entertainment decisions up to his bar manager, who told Brown they could only pay $450 per gig, and Saturday probably would not work, according to the documents.
Brown, though, persisted, according to the documents, saying he would do a free performance as a “trial run.” Intimate Sounds performed on Nov. 21, according to the documents, and afterward, Brown demanded $1,000 from Levi’s owner. When the owner refused, according to the documents, Brown suggested the restaurant might be running afoul of Prince George’s new so-called Dance Hall bill. He returned a few days later, according to the documents, and when the staff refused to book his band for more gigs, he showed his county ID badge and said, “I can have this place shut down.”
A day after that, according to the documents, he returned again with a stack of papers, telling restaurant staffers unless they applied for a “Dance License,” they would be shut down.
Restaurant staffers confirmed their permits were in order, then called police, according to the documents.
Ortiz said that Brown never actually moved to have any of Levi’s permits revoked, and if he had, that would have been reviewed by him and a supervisor. He said officials believe his conduct to be an “individual act,” though he and police urged others who might have had contact with Brown to call authorities.
“There’s no hesitation in acting in this case or any other with charges this serious,” Ortiz said.
Parker said Brown never actually got any money from Levi’s.