- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2008

State FBI agents raided his home, according to state documents released this week.

Mr. Currie, who is under federal investigation for his role as a consultant to Shoppers, met on May 5 with The Washington Times.

“I informed those present that typically [the agency] does not provide financial incentives for individual retail operations such as theirs,” Mr. Edgerley wrote in his notes exactly one month after the meeting. “However, they may be eligible for assistance through the Enterprise Zone program, depending on the location of the store and how many jobs may be created.”

Mr. Currie, who is under investigation for possible wire fraud, was paid more than $200,000 by Shoppers Food Warehouse from 2003 to 2007, according to documents unsealed Thursday by a judge at the request of the Associated Press.

Mr. Currie did not publicly report his relationship with the grocery chain or how much he was earning, in ethics disclosure forms.

FBI Special Agent Steve Quisenberry in his affidavit in support of searching Mr. Currie’s home and Shoppers’ corporate headquarters wrote: “It is my belief that [Mr. Currie] used his official position and influence in connection with such legislation, and in certain business transactions involving the state of Maryland, in ways that benefited” Shoppers Food Warehouse.

FBI agents raided Mr. Currie’s home and Shoppers Food Warehouse corporate headquarters 24 days after the meeting.

Federal agents are investigating Mr. Currie for possible mail and wire fraud, according to a copy of the affidavit filed with U.S. District Court, though no charges have been filed in the case.

Mr. Currie’s efforts on behalf of the grocery chain have been extensive over the past four years, according to state documents subpoenaed by federal investigators, ranging from lobbying for road improvements to inquiring about the status of land-swaps and business loans Shoppers executives wanted from the state.

Mr. Edgerley, who administers tax credit and business-loan programs for the state, wrote in the document that Shoppers executives provided him with a list of sites where the chain was planning to build new stores.

State ethics guidelines bar lawmakers from using legislative resources — including offices, telephones and computers — for non-legislative purposes, though the General Assembly’s ethics committee allows for occasional use for private purposes as long as it does not become “systemic.”

Mr. Currie also held a meeting at his Senate office on the opening day of the 2004 General Assembly session to try to smooth negotiations between the state and Shoppers executives for a low-interest, $3.6 million loan to the grocer to build a new store in Baltimore.

A DBED spokeswoman said nobody from the agency who attended both meetings knew at the time Mr. Currie was working for Shoppers Food. She also said legislators frequently ask agency officials to meet with businesses in their district.

Mr. Currie’s lawyer, Dale P. Kelberman, did not return calls for comment. A Shoppers spokeswoman declined comment for this story.

Mr. Currie, 70, has worked for Shoppers since 2003, the year after he became chairman of the Assembly’s powerful Senate Budget and Taxation committee, which controls the budgets of state agencies and has say over all tax matters in the Senate

During that time, he made 320 phone calls to phone numbers for Shoppers executives, including 26 during the Assembly’s three-week-long special session, in which multiple interests were lobbying Mr. Currie and other budget leaders to be spared from increased taxes.

Mr. Currie held a bill in his committee that would have increased the minimum tax paid by Shoppers and other grocery stores, during the special session. And he did not recuse himself from votes on that and other bills that would have raised taxes for Shoppers, according to the affidavit.

Investigators are focusing on Mr. Currie’s role in controlling tax legislation as chairman of the committee, in transferring a liquor license from a Shoppers store in College Park, and in helping to negotiate the relocation of state offices in Baltimore to allow a Shoppers store to be built there, according to the affidavit.

At the 2004 meeting about the new store for Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore, a Shoppers executive requested a $2 million subsidy on top of the $3.6 million loan being offered by the state, to help bring the cost of operating the store to something more in line with market prices, according to meeting notes.

The state ultimately approved a $1.8 million loan to the mall’s owner to pay for improvements.

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