U.S. DISTRICT COURT
Most Charges Voided in Alleged Extortion
Friday, November 14, 2008
A federal judge yesterday dismissed 12 of 14 charges against a D.C. government clerk accused of pocketing thousands of dollars in late fees for elevator licenses.
The action by U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton came as prosecutors finished presenting evidence in the week-long trial of Ikela M. Dean, a 32-year-old former clerk with the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. In her job, Dean reviewed applications for business licenses, certificates and various permits.
Prosecutors alleged that Dean ran a profitable extortion scheme in which she demanded late fees in cash from businesses and nonprofit groups that were hoping to keep their elevators running uninterrupted. The groups, which included Washington Hospital Center and the Metropolitan Club of Washington, paid the late fees in cash and other invoices by check.
Dean made sure the checks were deposited by government cashiers, prosecutors said, but kept the cash. She collected more than $4,000 during a three-month period last year, they said.
In throwing out the charges, Walton agreed with Dean's defense attorney, Antoini M. Jones, who argued that his client had not bribed or extorted the businesses because they actually owed the late fees. At worst, Jones argued, Dean could have been charged with embezzlement or theft from the D.C. government. Prosecutors never filed such charges.
The remaining bribery and extortion charges are linked to an undercover sting conducted by the FBI.
An undercover agent, posing as an employee of a Northwest Washington hotel, paid Dean $1,275 in cash for late or back fees in September 2007 to obtain a temporary permit to run a billiard parlor and cigar bar in the hotel, prosecutors said.
That day, agents arrested Dean but did not recover the $1,275. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lionel Andre said in closing arguments yesterday that a D.C. government employee found $1,175 of the FBI's sting money several days later in the bathroom used by Dean while she was being questioned by agents.
In closing arguments, Dean's attorney said the government did not prove that the former clerk pocketed the FBI's cash. Jones also said the government failed to prove that Dean committed extortion and bribery when she solicited the $1,275 in the sting operation. The jury is expected to begin deliberating today.