FBI Raids Pr. George's Offices in Development Probe
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Teams of FBI agents raided two Prince George's County government buildings yesterday, law enforcement and other sources said, a sweep that made public a federal investigation of a massive development planned near the Greenbelt Metro station.
A source with knowledge of the probe said agents distributed grand jury subpoenas seeking information about the planned 240-acre development, including efforts by developers to rezone the property and secure highway access from the Capital Beltway.
Two law enforcement sources said agents used a search warrant to enter the offices of J. Michael Dougherty, the county's director of finance. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the raids.
A government source, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said agents also raided a government building that houses offices of the fire department and information technology systems.
Federal authorities are known to be investigating a prominent state lawmaker from the county, Sen. Ulysses Currie (D), whose work for a grocery chain is under scrutiny. They have also begun an inquiry into the relationship between state Sen. Nathaniel Exum (D) and a Capitol Heights auto repair shop whose interests he has advocated.
The investigation made public yesterday does not appear to be directly linked to those probes, the source with knowledge of the subpoenas said.
The scope of the FBI investigation was not clear. However, the source with knowledge of the subpoenas said they sought information about contacts with prominent lobbyists and developers. They included Michael Arrington, who has been a lobbyist for one of the partners in the Greenbelt project, and developers Patrick Ricker and Daniel Colton, the source said.
Colton, who was released from prison in 2004 after serving three years for bank fraud, and Ricker did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Arrington said he was unaware of a probe and had no comment. Dougherty also could not immediately be reached.
The subpoenas also sought information about former County Council member Thomas R. Hendershot, who in December was hired as a temporary, part-time employee with the fire department. Hendershot declined to comment yesterday.
Before leaving office in 2006, the New Carrollton Democrat pushed zoning legislation that benefited the development. Although the property around Greenbelt station was zoned for industrial use, Hendershot's 2001 legislation allowed mixed-use development as long as it is of "high quality and sophistication."
The project is called Greenbelt Station, and the site, while principally in Greenbelt, is next to College Park and Berwyn Heights. Over the years, it has been a subject of controversy in all three jurisdictions, and a citizens group has expressed concern over its environmental impact.
According to a newsletter produced by the city of Berwyn Heights, Colton and another consultant told the Berwyn Heights Council in June that Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Wegmans were potential anchors. Colton and the consultant said developers had talked with government agencies, including the U.S. General Services Administration, about being tenants in the 1.4 million square feet of office space, according to the Berwyn Heights Bulletin.