Pr. George’s developer admitted bribing officials to help massive Greenbelt project

June 2, 2011

Federal officials Thursday revealed the guilty plea of a third developer in the sweeping Prince George’s County corruption scandal.

Daniel I. Colton, 61, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion and to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission, officials said. Colton entered his plea, which was sealed until late Thursday afternoon, on Sept. 13, 2010, according to Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.

Colton’s plea deal was revealed a little more than two weeks after the primary target of the investigation, former county executive Jack B. Johnson (D), pleaded guilty to two felony corruption charges.

Johnson, 62, admitted his guilt the same day the previous plea deals of two other developers, Mirza Hussein Ali Baig, 67, and Patrick Q. Ricker, 52, were unsealed.

Colton and Ricker have been partners in the Greenbelt Station project, a proposed 240-acre development for an area near the Greenbelt Metro station. It would include residential housing units, office space and retail businesses.

The two developers also have financial interests in Day Homes, a development company that planned to build single-family homes in Prince George’s.

Colton, who has homes in Annapolis and Raleigh, N.C., did not respond to a phone message. His attorney, Andrew Graham, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Colton’s plea deal in many ways mirrors Ricker’s.

According to Colton’s plea agreement, from 1997 through at least Sept. 11, 2008, Colton collaborated with Ricker and other business people to provide “money, trip expenses, meals, drinks, hotel rooms, airline tickets, rounds of golf, employment, mortgage payments, and monetary and in-kind contributions to state and local government officials.”

According to federal prosecutors, in exchange for the bribes, “state and local officials performed and agreed to perform favorable official actions for Colton, Ricker, and other developers, business owners and their companies.”

For example, officials helped Colton and other developers obtain permits for the proposed Greenbelt development and aided in the acquisition of surplus county land for the Day Homes project, according to federal prosecutors.

Colton doled out bribes to public officials and others that were worth $400,000 to $1 million, according to the plea deal.

Colton served three years in prison for bank fraud and was released in 2004. Colton and Ricker, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit honest services fraud and to make false statements to the FEC, each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison. U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte has yet to set sentencing dates for either man.

Johnson’s wife, Leslie, 59, was expected to plead guilty at a hearing early last month. The hearing was canceled two days before it was to occur.

Leslie Johnson (D) won a seat on the county council in November, days before FBI agents arrested her and her husband. As agents knocked on the door of the Johnsons’ Mitchellville home, Leslie Johnson tore up a $100,000 check from a developer and flushed it down a toilet, and tried to hide $79,600 in cash in her bra and underwear, according to court papers filed by federal prosecutors.

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