Prince George's County Executive, Wife Arrested

Sean Yoes | 11/15/2010, 11:43 a.m.
Jack B. Johnson, county executive of Prince George's County, Maryland, and his wife,...
Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson (center) speaks to the media following his arrest on Friday on charges of evidence tampering and evidence destruction. Photo By Khalid Naji-Allah.

Jack B. Johnson, county executive of Prince George's County, Maryland, and his wife, Leslie, were arrested Friday shortly after he allegedly instructed her to flush a $100,000 check down a toilet and stuff her underwear with more $79,000 in cash as FBI agents closed in on their home, according to an affidavit.

Johnson, in the final days of his second term as county executive of the wealthiest majority-black county in the nation, and his wife - who was recently elected to a seat on the county council - were both arrested and charged with evidence tampering and destroying evidence.

According to the affidavit, Johnson was under audio and video surveillance during a meeting Friday morning with a person known as Developer A. Developer A allegedly gave Johnson $15,000 in return for the county executive to wield his official influence and authority for the benefit of Developer A and his companies.

When two FBI agents entered the meeting, Johnson told them the money was for a party celebrating the end of his tenure as county executive. Later that morning, more FBI agents arrived at the front door of the Johnson's home in Mitchellville. Details of the affidavit indicate Leslie Johnson called her husband on his cell phone shortly after the agents arrived.

Below are excerpts from the FBI affidavit:

On November 12, 2010 at approximately 10:12 a.m., Leslie Johnson called Jack Johnson on the target telephone. Leslie Johnson explained that "two women are at the door." Jack Johnson replied, "Don't answer it." Jack Johnson then told Leslie Johnson to go upstairs in their bedroom and to go to "my drawer" and you will see a "check in there that (Developer A) provided to Jack Johnson in return for his official assistance. Leslie Johnson interrupted Jack Johnson and asked if she should take the "cash out of here too." Jack Johnson replied, "Yes."

Jack Johnson then told Leslie Johnson to put the cash in her underwear. Leslie Johnson then asked, "Where is the check? Where is the check?" Jack Johnson repeatedly described a box within a drawer in their bedroom. Leslie Johnson is overheard shuffling through items. Jack Johnson then explained that the check was under the underwear drawer. Leslie Johnson then asked if it was in the box where they stored liquor. Jack Johnson replied "Yes." Leslie Johnson then stated, "Yes, there is a check in there." Jack Johnson then stated, "Tear it Up! That is the only thing you have to do."

Leslie Johnson then questioned if Jack Johnson "had the cash down in the basement" and if Jack Johnson wanted her to move it also. Jack Johnson replied, "Put it in your bra and walk out or something. I don't know what to do." Leslie Johnson then asked, "What do you want me to do with the check?" Jack Johnson replied, "Tear up the check!" Leslie Johnson then state "they're saying FBI Jack" and asked "Do you want me to put it down the toilet?"

Leslie Johnson then sounds as if she is asking Jack Johnson if she should destroy the $100,000 check by flushing it down their toilet. Jack Johnson replied, "Yes, flush that." Investigating agents overheard a flushing toiler thereafter in the background. Jack Johnson then told Leslie Johnson to put "the cash" in her underwear." Leslie Johnson replied, "I have it in my bra."

Jack Johnson, 61, was led from his home by authorities with a suit jacket draped over his shoulders concealing his handcuffed wrists and was followed by his wife, 58, who held a blue coat up to her face. According to the affidavit, their arrests grew out of a four-year investigation by the FBI into allegations that developers and their associates regularly provided gifts for public officials in exchange for official favors.

Both were released following a brief hearing with U.S. Magistrate Judge William Connolly. The county executive was ordered to be placed under electronic monitoring, and his wife was released on her own recognizance. Both were ordered to surrender their passports. Johnson, the county's former chief prosecutor, vowed to fight the charges.

"To all the citizens of Prince George's County, you know me. I've served you long, and I've served you well, and most of you know me well," Johnson said after he was released. "I cannot go into these allegations because my lawyers will kill me if I do. I'm innocent of these charges. I just can't wait for the facts to come out. When they come out, I am absolutely convinced that we will be vindicated."

During a press conference, U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein indicated the arrest of the Johnsons was "the tip of the iceberg."

"We don't go on fishing expeditions. We expect additional defendants and additional charges," Rosenstein said.

The Johnsons each face 20 years in prison if convicted.