Sunday, July 6, 2008
Laurel internist Mirza H.A. Baig, another longtime friend and former business partner of Jack Johnson's, won three development deals during a 19-month period.
In April 2005, his company won approval to buy land near the Addison Road-Seat Pleasant Metro station. Two months before, county officials had sold another Baig company 11 houses in a low-income federally subsidized development in Upper Marlboro known as Sugar Hill. Baig paid $610,000, records show. It was a no-bid contract, said Bradley Farrar, who was deputy director of the Redevelopment Authority until late 2006.
Baig was collecting about $16,300 each month from HUD and the tenants at Sugar Hill, said HUD spokesman Lemar C. Wooley. Under an agreement with the federal agency, Baig was required to maintain the property as subsidized housing until 2012.
But in February, HUD told Baig that it would stop paying and that tenants would have to move because his company "failed to keep and maintain the Project in a decent, safe, and sanitary condition," according to an agency letter. Baig said he had made repairs to the property. "We are trying our best," he said.
HUD's decision clears the way for Baig to sell the property, which he said he intends to do. In January, the county assessed the properties at nearly $3 million, five times what Baig paid three years earlier.
Baig, 64, and Johnson, 59, owned property together in Laurel, purchased in 1992 for $450,000, according to Johnson's financial disclosure form. Johnson sold his portion for $1 million in October 1994, a month before he was elected the county state's attorney.
Baig and his family contributed $11,800 to Johnson's campaigns between 2000 and 2005, and Baig was co-host of a 2005 political fundraiser for Johnson that collected more than $27,000, records show.
Another Baig company signed a contract in November 2006 for a four-acre parcel on Maryland Park Drive in Capitol Heights after bringing the county an unsolicited offer.
Baig, who said he has done real estate deals in the county for 25 years, brought in to the deal his friend Muhammad Yusuf, a Laurel cardiologist and Johnson campaign contributor, and Ernest Peterson, who owns property with Johnson in the District.
Peterson, 62, who attended law school with Johnson at Howard University, initially denied being involved in the Maryland Park Drive project but said he was one of the developers when shown a copy of the contract.
"Doc Baig called me," Peterson said. "He explained what he was trying to put together, and I said, 'Okay, I'm interested.' "
Yusuf said he didn't recall details of the deal. Baig, he said, "mentioned something one time, but I have not really talked to him about it."
Melvin Forbes, another partner, said in an interview that he remembered talking with several people about the property but that he did not recall Baig.
"What does he look like?" Forbes asked.
When told that he signed the contract with Baig, Forbes expressed surprise.
"I signed the contract?" he asked. "I need to find my paperwork and find out exactly who this gentleman is."
Baig and Forbes signed the contract Nov. 17, 2006. But the company they formed, Maryland Park LLC, was not registered with the state, as required to do business, until Dec. 13, records show.
According to the contract, county officials agreed to sell Baig and his group the vacant land for its appraised value, which was $520,000, in 2005. Last year, a county appraisal put the value at $1.1 million.
Baig said he has abandoned the project, giving conflicting explanations. Thompson, the county's former housing director, said that early this year the county "canceled it because we didn't like the deal anymore" but declined to produce documents on the decision.