From the sterile account on the books of the Prince George's County tax assessor's office, it appears Washington criminal defense attorney Kenneth Michael Robinson bought himself a $60,000 house in Morningside on Feb. 6.
What the tax assessor's record doesn't show is a complex set of circumstances that may leave either Robinson or theUnited States government the owner of six-room, brick-and-frame home at 6403 Pine Lane Dr.
Early this year, when newspaper stories were published naming Linwood Gray as the key target of a lengthy federal investigation into an alleged $30 million heroin importation scheme, Gray hired Robinson as his attorney.
Robinson said that as part of his legal fee, he wanted the house on Pine Lane Drive, titled in the name of Gray's wife, Darlene B. Fleming, deeded over to him. So on Feb. 6, Robinson became the owner of the split-level house with a two-car garage topped with a patio.
But on March 9 a federal grand jury indicted Gray and 16 others in the alleged heroin smuggling operation. One of the counts of the indictment charged that Gray engaged "in a continuing criminal enterprise" that netted him "substantial income and resources."
Along with five cars, two other houses and a nightclub, the indictment alleged that Gray used his purported drug profits to buy the house on Pine Lane Drive.
Under the criminal statute involved, Gray would have to forfeit the property if he is convicted.Government sources said yesterday, however, it is unclear whether the government would have the right to take the house, if Gray is convicted of the charge at his current federal court trial, because his wife deeded it to Robinson before the indictment.
At the same time, the Internal Revenue Service has filed liens against some of Gray's property, claiming that he owes the government back income taxes, according to government sources. But it could not be learned yesterday whether the IRS filed any claims against the Pine Lane Drive property, or if they did before Robinson took the property on Feb. 6.
Robinson said that he got the house, specified as worth $60,000 in his agreement to represent Gray, and an amount of money that he would not disclose.
But from the Prince George's tax records it would appear that Robinson, if he gets to keep the property, got a good deal. The records list the fair market value of his house, which is located on a $15,000-square-foot lot with trees, as $77,820.
"It'll probably be worth $90,000 in a year." Robinson said.
An exchange of property in lieu of legal fees is not unheard of, but it is somewhat unusual. "Doctors have been taking chickens and goats for years," Robinson joked, adding, "I'm fighting for my life to win this case so I can keep my house." CAPTION: Picture, Washington lawyer Kenneth Michael Robinson obtained home on Pine Lane Drive in Prince George's as part of an agreement to represent a reputed drug smuggler. By Margaret Thomas - The Washington Post