Credit Card Use Probed By U.S., Sources Say

By Eric Rich and Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, May 19, 2007

Federal authorities have launched an investigation into the use by Prince George's officials of county-issued credit cards to charge personal expenses totaling thousands of dollars, according to a law enforcement official and another source with knowledge of the probe.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because the review remains secret, said investigators have subpoenaed county records as part of the probe. The review parallels a previously disclosed investigation by the Maryland state prosecutor's office.

According to the sources, the investigation began after The Washington Post reported in November that some members of the County Council and County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) had used the credit cards for a wide range of personal expenses, including gym memberships and a haircut, in apparent violation of county policy.

In some instances, officials said the personal charges were made inadvertently and were later reimbursed -- claims that could not be confirmed by a review of county records. The county requires officials to sign an agreement stating that the cards are "exclusively for authorized and lawful county business."

James Keary, a spokesman for Johnson, said yesterday that he was not aware of the federal investigation and that Johnson had not misused the credit card. "As far as the county executive's office, we have determined that any bills that were paid by the county were justified county expenses," Keary said.

A spokeswoman for the council referred questions to the county attorney, Stephanie P. Anderson. Anderson, responding through Keary, declined to comment.

The expenses detailed in The Post's report included a $37.99 shirt and a $21 haircut bought by council member David Harrington (D-Cheverly). He also charged $1,200 for six-month gym memberships for himself and three staff members. Harrington said the gym memberships were in lieu of bonuses.

Council Chairwoman Camille Exum (D-Seat Pleasant) put $120.99 on her county credit card at a Jamaica resort while there for a wedding. She later said she had lost her personal credit card. She also said she repaid the county, but she could not provide proof.

Johnson's charges included $6,003 for a round-trip business-class plane ticket to Senegal for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for homes built by a Prince George's developer.

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