- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Prince George’s County officials moved quickly yesterday in naming a replacement for a high-ranking school system administrator arrested earlier this week in connection with a $20 million, international drug ring.

Officials put Regional Assistant Superintendent Pamela Yvette Hoffler-Riddick on leave, then filled the job with one of her subordinates, Yvonne Crawford, a regional executive director with the school system.

Prince George’s schools Chief Executive Officer Andre J. Hornsby sent a letter to parents informing them of his decision.

The announcement came two days after Mrs. Hoffler-Riddick was charged with five counts of money laundering in connection with the ring, which federal authorities said moved large shipments of cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana across the country.

Thirty-one persons were named in the federal indictment that was unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Norfolk. The indictment caps a two-year investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Investigators focused on Mrs. Hoffler-Riddick’s relationship with a financial adviser in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, a hub for the drug operation, federal officials said yesterday.

Investigators said Mrs. Hoffler-Riddick worked with a man named John McBride, who was a financial adviser to Aaron Burton, accused of being one of the major traffickers in the ring.

Mrs. Hoffler-Riddick, 43, worked from 1984 to 2000 in Hampton Roads. She also worked as an administrator in Montgomery County and in the Baltimore school system before going to Prince George’s County in 2003.

The investigators said Mrs. Hoffler-Riddick helped Mr. Burton buy two houses and a $35,000 van, and then was repaid through drug money.

“Her involvement was on the financial side as opposed to the drug side,” said Allen Doody, special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Some of the money was moved through accounts at the Virginia Educators Credit Union and the Montgomery County Teachers Federal Credit Union, he said.

David Bouchard, Mrs. Hoffler-Riddick’s attorney, said yesterday that his client was unaware that she was the target of a federal investigation until agents arrived at the door of her Rockville home at 6 a.m. Monday.

“It was an absolute and total surprise,” he said. “This woman has been tied up in a web that is the government’s creation. It takes very little to get trapped and indicted in one of these cases.”

Mrs. Hoffler-Riddick was released without bond. An arraignment hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. Mr. Bouchard said a trial could begin in six months.

The arrest shocked officials in the 140,000-student school system.

“We’re very saddened by this,” said Prince George’s school board member Abby L.W. Crowley. “She had done a good job, but certainly we’ll have to wait to see what the outcome is.”

Mr. Hornsby said school officials had no idea that Mrs. Hoffler-Riddick faced legal trouble.

“She entered our school system in the fall of 2003 with a clean record, and we have advised our staff to reserve judgment until this matter reaches its conclusion,” he said.

Mrs. Hoffler-Riddick was hired by Mr. Hornsby at a salary of $120,120.

School system spokesman Jack White said Mrs. Hoffler-Riddick is allowed to use the rest of her paid vacation. It was not clear whether she will get any additional compensation pending the outcome of the case.

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