By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Connie Alexander was a compulsive gambler who must have thought she hit the jackpot when she met Harriette Walters, who showered her with lavish gifts and even helped pay for Alexander's 2006 wedding at a Las Vegas hotel.
Yesterday, the marker came due in what turned out to be a high-stakes crime.
Alexander, one of 10 people prosecuted for helping Walters embezzle millions of dollars from the D.C. tax office, was sentenced yesterday to almost four years in prison for her role in the massive fraud, which cost the District government almost $50 million.
Appearing before U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. in Greenbelt, Alexander, 53, of Bowie, apologized to her family, to the court, to the government and to the "people of D.C."
"I know sorry doesn't make it all go away, but I am truly sorry," she told Williams.
All 11 defendants in the case have pleaded guilty, and all have been sentenced except Walters, who is scheduled to learn her punishment next month in federal court in the District.
Alexander was the first defendant in the case to come forward to cooperate with government investigators, and her attorney, Aitan D. Goelman, asked the judge to impose only probation.
Williams, who has sentenced seven other defendants in the D.C. case, rejected that request, saying Alexander's actions, which netted her more than $3 million, called for "punishment."
"This is not a probation case, under no stretch of the imagination," Williams said. "No one has gotten probation, and no one should have gotten probation."
But the judge appeared to be moved by the defense presentation, which included the testimony of a gambling addiction expert from New York, letters from Alexander's friends, colleagues and relatives, and a tearful statement from Alexander.
"I'm not going to throw the book at her," the judge said, noting that Alexander appeared to be truly remorseful.
Alexander was working in a casino in 1992 when she met Walters, who was a regular patron of the gambling hall. The two became friends, and Walters would give her gifts of money that averaged $5,000. It was not until some time between 1998 and 2000 that Walters enlisted Alexander in the scheme, which involved issuing fraudulent property tax refund checks and by then was several years old.
At the direction of Walters, Alexander endorsed and deposited eight such checks totaling more than $1.5 million. Between 2000 and 2007, Alexander received 92 payments totaling almost $3.2 million.
Alexander had pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property and conspiracy to commit money laundering, and with credit for her cooperation, the sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of 46 to 57 months.
Goelman had argued that the extent of Alexander's cooperation merited more credit than other defendants in the case had received. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan C. Su, while acknowledging that the assistance was truthful and complete, declined to ask for additional credit, and Williams said he did not see cause to give Alexander a further break.
As part of her plea, Alexander agreed to a restitution order of $3.1 million and to forfeit goods including a 2000 Mercedes-Benz automobile, a 2002 Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a 2003 Cadillac Escalade sport-utility vehicle, three projection televisions, designer handbags, 62 pieces of jewelry and eight fur coats.