Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Harriette Walters pleaded guilty yesterday to engineering the biggest embezzlement in D.C. government history. Nine others have pleaded guilty in the tax scandal.
Prosecutors dropped charges yesterday against Diane Gustus, who, like Walters, worked in the D.C. tax office. Walters's niece, Jayrece Turnbull, is awaiting trial. Those pleading guilty to various federal charges include:
· Connie Alexander: Friend of Walters, whom she met while working at a Maryland casino in 1992. She joined the scam in the late 1990s and took some refund checks to banks. Prosecutors traced about $3.2 million in stolen money to her. She pleaded guilty to receipt of stolen property and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
· Alethia Grooms: Former friend of Walters, who she met in the 1980s. They often gambled together at casino nights held at volunteer fire stations in Maryland, and Grooms acted as Walters's real estate agent when she bought her Northwest Washington home for $420,000 in 2000. She joined the scam in 1989 and acknowledged that she accepted about $650,000 in illegal funds. She pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property, money laundering and mortgage fraud.
· Walter Jones: A former Bank of America manager who became friends with Walters in the mid-1990s. He deposited almost $18 million in fraudulent checks from 2000 to 2006 and helped distribute stolen money to others. He acknowledged receiving at least $366,000 in illegal proceeds. He pleaded guilty to money laundering.
· Samuel E. Pope: Former hair salon owner and longtime friend of Walters. Pope or his business received almost $1.2 million in fraudulent refund checks, dating to 1991, prosecutors said. He got more than $400,000 in other payments in the scam. He pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money- laundering conspiracy charges.
· Patricia Steven: A friend of Walters since the mid-1970s. Her criminal activity began in the late 1980s, when Walters proposed that Steven deposit a D.C. government check. The check was made payable to Steven, who knew it was fraudulent. She agreed to deposit it under a deal to keep some of the money, with the rest going to Walters. The arrangement continued for 16 years, involving dozens of checks totaling almost $9 million -- enriching Steven and her now-estranged husband, Robert O. Steven, who also has pleaded guilty.
· Robert O. Steven: A former IRS employee and longtime friend of Walters. He and his estranged wife, Patricia, were accused of handling more than $9.2 million in refund checks from 1990 through 2006. A bank account set up by the couple in the name of a clothing design firm took in about $9.2 million in embezzled funds from 1990 to 2007. Of that, $1.7 million was transferred to a bank account used primarily by Robert Steven. He pleaded guilty to receipt of stolen property and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
· Ricardo Walters: Walters's nephew. Ten refund checks, worth about $4.2 million, were deposited into his cleaning company's bank account in 2006 and 2007. He kept at least $795,000. He pleaded guilty to money laundering and receiving stolen property.
· Richard Walters: Walters's brother. His company, Helmet Plumbing, cashed $4.9 million in illegal refunds issued from 2001 to 2007. More than $1 million of the money went to accounts he controlled. He pleaded guilty to receipt of stolen property and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
· Marilyn Yoon: A friend who met Walters in 2000 while working at a high-end leather goods store. Their relationship continued when Yoon moved to the Louis Vuitton store in Tysons Corner, with Walters giving her more than $250,000 in gifts. In 2007, Yoon handled a fraudulent $275,000 check. She pleaded guilty to possession of property obtained by fraud.