- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2010

The shadow of corruption over Prince George’s County government widened Monday with indictments against three county police officers and others on charges of trafficking bootleg cigarettes, alcohol and cocaine, just days after County Executive Jack B. Johnson’s arrest on charges of trying to conceal tens thousands of dollars payoffs from a developer.

The latest round of charges accuse Amrik Singh Melhi, 51, who owns several liquor stores in the area, of paying police officers to help ship untaxed alcohol and cigarettes in Maryland and Virginia. Among those charged in that case were Prince George’s Police Sergeant Richard Delabrer and Corporal Chong Chin Kim, officials said.

The indictment seeks the forfeiture of $3.5 million, 25 properties, 13 vehicles and money from 84 bank accounts that authorities say they traced to the crimes.

In a separate indictment made public Monday, authorties charged Prince George’s police officer Sinisa Simic of cocaine trafficking.

On Friday, Mr. Johnson was charged with witness tampering and destruction of evidence in an long-running federal investigation into bribes paid by real estate developers to county officials. Mr. Johnson, who has said he’s innocent of the charges, were released pending trial, with Mr. Johnson under electronic monitoring.

There’s no indication that the cases involving the police officers and Mr. Johnson are related, but the latest indictments come just days after U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein in Maryland said following Mr. Johnson’s arrest to expect more charges.

Mr. Johnson, nabbed by the FBI taking $15,000 from an unnamed developer Friday, later told his wife by phone to hide tens of thousands of dollars at his home in her underwear as FBI agents arrived.

Leslie Johnson, who was elected but not yet sworn into a seat on the Prince George’s Council, was also charged Friday. The FBI recovered $79.600 in cash from her underwear, authorities said in charging documents.

The county executive, a Democrat who previously was the county’s top prosecutor, also told his wife to tear up a $100,000 check from the developer and stash tens of thousands of dollars in cash in her bra, authorities said.

“Tear it up! That is the only thing you have to do,” Mr. Johnson told his wife, referring to the check, according to prosecutors.