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Jack Johnson, Prince George's county executive, and his wife, Leslie, arrested
"I'm innocent of these charges," he said. "I just can't wait for the facts to come out. When they come out, I'm absolutely convinced I'll be vindicated."
Johnson, 61, is in the waning days of his second term in office. His administration has been the target of allegations of cronyism and corruption since his 2002 election. He was silent as FBI agents led him and his wife separately from their home about 1 p.m. Johnson, the county's former chief prosecutor, wore a suit jacket on his shoulders, concealing his handcuffs.
Leslie Johnson, 58, who earlier this month won election to the Prince George's County Council, held a blue coat up over her face as an agent escorted her to a waiting sedan.
After a brief hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Connolly ordered Jack Johnson released and placed under electronic monitoring. His wife was released on her own recognizance, and both were ordered to surrender their passports. The Johnsons each could face 20 years in prison if convicted.
The Johnsons' arrests grew out of a four-year FBI investigation into developers and their associates "regularly providing things of value to public officials" in exchange for official favors, according to a 10-page affidavit filed with the criminal complaint.
The investigation centered on alleged bribes Jack Johnson took in exchange for helping an unidentified developer seek grant money from a federal affordable-housing program administered by the county's Department of Housing and Community Development.
The developer gave Johnson cash and checks as far back as 2007, including one for $100,000, according to the affidavit. More recently, on Nov. 5, in what appears to be part of a sting, the developer gave Johnson $5,000 in cash in a transaction that investigators recorded.
On Friday, Johnson met again with the developer, who gave the county executive $15,000 in cash, the affidavit said. Following the payment, FBI agents confronted Johnson about the alleged bribe. Johnson explained that the money was for a "party marking the end of his term as county executive," according to the affidavit, written by FBI Special Agent Wendy H. Munoz.
The agents searched Johnson and found the $15,000 on him. The agents told the county executive they would not arrest him and that he could leave, but then they monitored his phone conversation with his wife.
After Leslie Johnson told her husband about the agents at the door, he urged her to find the $100,000 check and "Tear it up! That is the only thing you have to do," Munoz wrote, quoting the monitored conversation.
After she asked if she should flush the check down the toilet, agents listening to their call on a wiretap "overheard a flushing toilet. . . in the background," the document said.
Steve Willsey, a plumber who arrived at Johnson's home shortly after 1 p.m., said he was summoned by the FBI.