The Prince George's County state's attorney's office has expanded its investigation of County Sheriff Don Edward Ansell to include a wide range of allegations that he and others in his department abused their offices for personal gain.
At the request of State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall, Maryland State Police investigators have been brought in to help two full-time investigators and a prosecutor who were already pursuing the investigation.
Marshall's office has issued more ban 100 subpoenas for records in connection with the investigation, according to informed sources. Marshall would not comment on the number of subpoenas, but said his office has demanded records that he called "largely governmental" in nature.
The investigation began after an article in March 28 editions of The Washington Post about Ansell's alleged use of his office for personal benefit. The next day, Ansell contacted the prosecutor's office and offered to waive immunity from prosecution and appear before a grand jury.
Marshall then began a limitd investigation of published allegations that county jail prisoners under the sheriff's supervision had been used to perform personel tasks outside the jail.
Since then, however, a steady stream of disenchanted sheriff's employees and others have gone to the prosecutor's office in Upper Marlboro with numerous additional allegatiosn that now form the basis of a wider probe.
Marshall refused yesterday to discuss any of the new allegations. Sources close to the investigation, however, said they include reports of goods allegedly stolen from the sites of evictions executed by the sheriff' office, alleged payoffs from landlords to sheriff's department employees in return for priority in executing evictions, alleged use of a county employee to do plumbing work at the sheriff's house and Ansell's role in a February sheriff's sale of a motor home seized in a court proceeding.
Ansell did not return a reporter's phone calls yesterday or last week. His attorney, Victor Houlon, attributed the allegations and investigations to "disgruntled employees."
"If there's any evidence detrimental to the sheriff other than the bold allegations of disgruntled employees," Houlon said, "I haven't seen it yet." Houlon acknowledged, however, "The prosecutors don't really talk to us about all the allegations. . .
"We have all agreement with the state there will be no further statement by both sides," Houlon said. "We felt if the investigation did result in an indictment, pretrial publicity wouldn't do anybody any good."
Houlon went on to defend Ansell as a man innocent of any wrongdoing who stands by his earlier promise to waive immunity in testimony before a grand jury. "It's unfortunate," Houlon said, "because the sheriff's family is suffering."
"Our investigation will go wherever it leads," Marshall said yesterday. "There are some matters reflecting on other individuals in the department, and some information going beyond the department.We asked the (state) police for assistance because we received so many wide and varied allegations."
In the next two weeks, Marshall said, he hoped his probers would "separate unsubstantiated and uncriminal charges and those prosecutorial from those more substantive.
"After that, I aim within one month to bring it before the grand jury," Marshall said. "We've received a great deal of information and allegations.We're trying to look at each of them."
One allegation directly involving Ansell stems from a sheriff's sale Feb. 26 of a 28-foot "Open Road" motor home at Branch Avenue Towing, Forestville. The $13,000 vehicle was purchased in 1974 by Peg Greenway, a close friend of Ansell, for use by Willie Mae Flammer, a country and western singer known as "Valli Rae."
The singer said in an interview she performed for free at Greenway's behest at Ansell campaign fund-release. However, she and Greenway had a falling out, and Greenway filed a court suit seeking possession of the motor home. The vehicle was seized and stored at the Forestville lot last May while litigation continue.
Greenway could not be reached for comment at her home yesterday. Others who attended the sale ordered by the court, however, said she arrived with Ansell, and after she was the successful high hidder at a price of $3,000, the sheriff intervened with the lot onwner to reduce storage to reduce from $8.50 to $5 per day the additional storage fee they wanted to charge her to 250 days.
"For a car, we charged $5 a day," said lot owner Nic Bathis, "but this seemed about 40 feet from tip to tip."
An agrument ensued, during which Ansell "said he'd impound or remove the motor on the lot," Bathis said. "We didn't want any problems with the sheriff's department, so we made it $5 a day olus $80 towing. . .Ansell said he'd make up the (size) difference by (making Greenway pay) $200 extra for towing and storage.
Then, although the terms of sale call for cash or certified check, Greenway, according to reliable departmental sources, was allowed by Ansell to pay personal check for the vehicle. In effect, she was paying herself, but had the rule been strictly applied, a second bidder with cash would have prevailed.
Lawyer Houlon, speaking on behalf of Ansell yesterday, said he knew nothing about the personal check but defended the sheriff's other actions.
"Five dollars a day (storage) is all you can charge," he said. "If it isn't by law, its custom." As to the manner of payment, Houlon said, "The only important thing is that the check is good."
In the initial article, a former deputy alleged that he brought to do various jail trusties to Ansell' house to do various chores for the sheriff. The new allegations include a report was driven to Ansell's hometo do plumbing work on country time on one occasion.