9 more arrested in Prince George's corruption probe
Tuesday, November 16, 2010; 12:16 AM
Nine people, including three Prince George's County police officers, were arrested Monday on charges involving drugs, guns, and black-market alcohol and cigarettes as authorities ratcheted up a sprawling corruption probe in the county.
Federal agents conducted numerous searches around the county and moved to seize more than 30 homes, businesses and vehicles as part of the widening investigation into corruption in Prince George's.
The nine suspects were arrested three days after County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and his wife were led from their home in handcuffs, accused of evidence-tampering in a probe of sweetheart land deals. Federal officials say the arrests are all connected.
"This case and Friday's are among a series of related investigations," said Rod J. Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for Maryland. He was referring to Monday's roundup of suspects and the arrests of the Johnsons on Friday, when the executive's wife allegedly flushed a $100,000 check down a toilet in their home and tried to hide $79,600 in cash in her bra as FBI agents knocked at the door of their home with a search warrant.
Johnson, 61, due to leave office next month after two terms as executive, and his 58-year-old wife, Leslie Johnson (D), newly elected to the County Council, were released after their arrests. Jack Johnson was back at work Monday doing the job "the people had elected him to do," his spokesman said, adding that couple are "strong and faithful."
The nine people arrested Monday were taken into custody early in the morning in an operation involving about 150 law enforcement officers who executed as many as a dozen search warrants. Among those charged are police Sgt. Richard Delabrer, 45, of Laurel, Cpl. Chong Chin Kim, 42, of Beltsville and Officer Sinisa Simic, 25, of Woodbridge.
A federal indictment unsealed Monday alleges that liquor store owner Amrik S. Melhi, 51, and others paid Delabrer and Kim to guard the distribution of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol in Maryland and Virginia. Melhi, the two officers and four other suspects are charged with conspiracy to commit extortion.
In a separate scheme, Simic is accused of conspiring to distribute cocaine and using firearms in drug trafficking. Another of the nine suspects, Mirza Kujundzic, 30, of Woodbridge, was charged with those same offenses.
The indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, seeks the court-ordered forfeiture of $3.5 million in cash, 25 homes and businesses, 13 vehicles and 84 bank accounts that authorities said are associated with the alleged crimes.
Melhi, of Clarksville, owns several liquor stores, including Tick Tock Liquor and Restaurant in Langley Park, where Delabrer worked off-duty as a security guard. Tick Tock is well known in the county and is one of the most lucrative liquor stores in the area. Online property records indicate that Melhi owns several homes and properties in Prince George's and Maryland.
The others charged in the alleged booze and cigarettes scheme were identified as Melhi's wife, Ravinder K. Melhi, 49; Amir Milijkovic, 39, of Bowie, who owns a College Park auto glass store; Chun Chen, 34, of Bowie; and Jose Moreno, 49, of Alexandria.
All were ordered held until detention hearings Tuesday and later this week.