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Ex-Interior Official Charged With Taking Payments

By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A former Interior Department official has been charged with accepting payments from business leaders in exchange for arranging meetings with government officials in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Edgar A. Johnson, 59, of Bowie, who left his position at Interior's Office of Insular Affairs last year, was charged Monday in U.S. District Court in Washington with one count of honest services wire fraud, a felony, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both. An arraignment date has not been set.

Johnson, who held federal jobs for nearly 30 years, most recently was director of the technical assistance division, which provides funding to U.S. territories and private companies to increase self-sufficiency and encourage private-sector investment.

Prosecutors allege that Johnson, whose annual salary was $121,000, used his position to obtain illegal payments from businesses seeking deals with the Virgin Islands. He accepted $10,000 during a meeting on Aug. 21, 2007, in exchange for introducing unnamed business leaders to senior government officials, "so those individuals could pitch insurance business," according to court documents.

He also expected to get a cut in future business deals, prosecutors allege.

Johnson did not return phone calls yesterday. His attorney, Stephen O'Neal Russell, declined to comment on the case.

Before taking over as head of the technical assistance division, Johnson worked as Interior's Virgin Islands chief desk officer. A graduate of Morgan State College (now Morgan State University), Johnson received an award of appreciation from former Virgin Islands governor Roy L. Schneider for helping transfer Water Island, a small territory south of St. Thomas, from federal ownership to the local government in 1996.

Johnson is also a past president of the Interior Department's chapter of Blacks in Government.

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