Developers in probe had long ties to Johnson

May 18, 2011

For months, they were known only as Developer A and Developer B in the pay-to-play investigation of former Prince George’s County executive Jack B. Johnson. But on Tuesday, prosecutors revealed their identity.

Mirza Hussein Ali Baig, 67, and Patrick Ricker, 52, already had pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in relation to the Johnson probe, the prosecutors also revealed.

The two have strong business and political ties to Johnson, dating at least back to when he led the Prince George’s prosecutor’s office.

Ricker, whose family is a fixture in county politics, has known Johnson for nearly two decades. But in 2002, Ricker backed Johnson’s opponent, M.H. “Jim” Estepp, in the county executive’s race.

When Johnson won the Democratic primary, Ricker quickly worked to mend fences, holding a $500-a-head fundraiser for Johnson at Jerry’s Seafood, a restaurant owned by the family of his father-in-law.

Ricker was known for his fundraising and the relationships he developed with elected officials. But that may be what led to his downfall.

According to court documents, Ricker regularly provided benefits to state and local officials, including money for trips, meals, drinks, hotel rooms, employment, airline tickets, sexual services, rounds of golf and campaign contributions.

Ricker, who was Developer B, is the president of Ricker Brothers Inc. He has a financial stake in at least two companies: Greenbelt Metropark, a company that planned to build Greenbelt Station, a 240-acre, mixed-use project near the Greenbelt Metro station, and Day Homes, a development company.

Court documents say that Ricker was able to get the site plan approved for Greenbelt Station, receive assistance in acquiring property from the county for Day Homes, get proprietary county information and priority for the Greenbelt Station project in exchange for the gifts he gave officials.

Ricker’s attorney, Timothy J. Sullivan, did not return a call for comment. Ricker pleaded guilty in December 2009 to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and tax evasion, according to court documents made public Tuesday.

Baig’s relationship with Johnson also dates to long ago, when they agreed to buy land in Prince George’s County valued at $450,000.

Baig pleaded guilty in April to charges of conspiracy to commit extortion in connection with bribes he paid to Jack Johnson and James Johnson. “He fully cooperated with the government,” said Baig’s attorney, Paul F. Kemp. “And he cooperated for quite a while, for a period of months. He’s trying to do the right thing and be truthful.”

Johnson and Baig, head of his own medical practice in Laurel, had little in common when they were introduced by Hank Arrington, Johnson’s former campaign manager. Johnson was an ambitious attorney raised in rural South Carolina who once worked for the IRS; Baig was a seasoned internist who studied medicine at Osmania University in India.

The pair rarely socialized, but their business relationship thrived. Baig fancied himself a developer and won at least three deals in the county during a 19-month period while Johnson was county executive, according to a 2008 Washington Post investigation into Prince George’s County development deals.

One of those deals was in April 2005 when Baig’s company, Dawn Limited Partnership, won approval to buy land near the Addison Road-Seat Pleasant Metro station in Capitol Heights. That project, known as the Commons at Addison Road, was singled out by federal authorities who spent the last several years investigating Johnson. The project was never built.

Authorities claim that Johnson helped secure federal HOME funds and leases for the project in exchange for cash payments from Baig. In all, Baig gave more than $400,000 to county officials, according to court papers.

Also in 2005, county officials sold another Baig company 11 houses in a low-income federally subsidized development in Upper Marlboro known as Sugar Hill. It was a no-bid contract for which Baig paid $610,000, the Post found. He sold the properties for $1.2 million in 2010, records show.

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