A former high-ranking Prince George’s fire official was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in federal prison for his role in a far-reaching corruption probe in the county.
Karl L. Granzow Jr., a former deputy fire chief with deep roots in the community and ties to real estate developers, pleaded guilty last year to extortion and tax evasion.
In sentencing Granzow on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte said county residents “are outraged at the extent and depth of corruption in this case . . . that someone at the very top should be involved.”
Federal prosecutors say Granzow, 47, and two co-conspirators — prominent developers Patrick Q. Ricker and Daniel I. Colton — were part of a scheme that offered golf outings, airline tickets, meals and other gifts to public officials.
In exchange, officials agreed to favorable treatment of a planned development near the Greenbelt Metro station, according to the plea agreement.
Granzow is one of 15 people, including former county executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and his wife, former council member Leslie Johnson (D), who have pleaded guilty in the public corruption scandal. Ricker is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.
According to prosecutors, Colton, Granzow and Ricker also provided illegal campaign contributions to state and local politicians by recruiting “straw donors” to avoid donation limits. Granzow pleaded guilty to providing more than $30,000 in illegal contributions and to failing to report $225,974 in income — money his attorney said he received from Ricker for helping locate a property to develop.
Granzow attorney Timothy Maloney said the former fire official had a “negligible interest” of 1 percent in the Greenbelt mixed-use development project.
Speaking directly to the judge, Granzow said he was motivated not by greed but by his close friendship with Ricker, with whom he is still working in the real estate business in the county.
Ricker told Granzow, according to Maloney, that his development projects were at risk if he did not raise money for County Council members. The illegal contributions were made to Vision for 2006, a slate that included Jack Johnson, and to the Twenty-Third Team slate of 30 other candidates.
Federal prosecutors asked Messitte to order prison time for Granzow. A sentencing memo described his “participation in, and furtherance of the pervasive corruption of public office for private gain in Prince George’s.”
“He chose repeatedly to commit these crimes — not just out of friendship,” Assistant U.S. Attorney James A. Crowell said Wednesday. “He stood to benefit.”
In addition to his 18-month sentence, Granzow must pay a $10,000 fine and continue to repay his debt to the Internal Revenue Service. He will be able to continue collecting his taxpayer-funded county pension.
Granzow, who rose through the ranks of the fire department from a volunteer to the position his father once held, cooperated extensively with the government in its investigation starting in 2006, according to court documents.
He was joined in the courtroom Wednesday by more than a dozen friends and family. Granzow apologized to the community and said the conviction would be “an everlasting blemish on my reputation.”