A cashier in the House of Representatives' finance office, who told police Thursday night that two men had forced him to open the office safe and then fled with more than $40,000 in cash, was accused of taking the money by police yesterday.
An arrest warrant charging Garrett Wilson of Friendly with embezzlement in the theft was obtained by police after they had questioned Wilson for several hours early yesterday.
All of the missing money was found in a briefcase belonging to Wilson in his home in southern Prince George's County yesterday, sources said, but police declined to release his address.
Wilson had told police that two men, one wielding a gun, had surprised him while he was working late in the office at about 9:30 p.m. and demanded that he open the safe. When he refused, police said he told them, the men hit him three times in the face.
But police said they became suspicious after questioning Wilson more closely about his account. They said they found only a slight bruise on his face, an injury that they said was inconsistent with his description of the beating he allegedly received.
In addition, a Capitol policeman was stationed at a desk less than 50 feet from the finance office, located in Room 263 of the Cannon Building, at the time the robbery supposedly took place.He reported seeing no one enter or leave the office.
"How two men could creep by the officer without being seen or being heard in the empty hallways was a puzzle," one detective said.
The bizarre ending to what had at first appeared to police to be a well-planned armed robbery climaxed a day unprecedented in the history of the finance office.
"This is the first time this has ever happened," said John Lawler, director of the House Finance Office, which serves as the accounting and personnel arm for the House in financial matters.
Lawler said that Wilson, 23 had worked as a cashier in the office "a couple of years" and earned $12,000 a year.
Wilson, who could not be reached for comment, was not arrested immediately as the result of an agreement reached between him and the U.S. Attorney's Office, a source said. Under the agreement, Wilson will turn himself in on Monday, according to the source.
According to Lawler, the House Finance Office is responsible for issuing the paychecks for the 12,000 House employees but does not cash them. It is also responsible for managing the health benefits for House employes as well as leasing office space for the House when it is needed elsewhere in the country.
Lawler said that while the office closes its doors at 5:30 p.m., it is not uncommon for employes to work as late as 9 or 10 p.m.
Lawler, who has been director of the finance office since 1975, said Capitol Hill police called him at home to report that the office had been robbed.
Lawler, refused to comment on reports that an arrest warrant had been issued for Wilson. He said he had given Wilson the day off yesterday because he had been up all night and into the early hours of the morning as a result of the investigation.