Former fire official pleads guilty in P.G. corruption probe

The guilty plea of a retired Prince George’s County fire official was unsealed Monday in federal court, linking him to the large-scale corruption probe that has taken down developers, public officials and police officers in the county over the last several months.

Karl Granzow, 46, pleaded guilty in secret to conspiring to commit extortion and to income tax evasion on March 11. Mr. Granzow, a former lieutenant colonel in the county fire department, admitted in his guilty plea to partnering with county developers for more than 10 years to bribe public officials for development favors related to the Greenbelt Station development project.

Mr. Granzow became the subject of public scrutiny in 2008 when FBI officials raided his home and office, along with the officers of developers Daniel Colton and Patrick Ricker, who have also pleaded guilty to related offenses.

According to Mr. Granzow’s plea agreement, from 1997 through 2008, he, Mr. Colton, Mr. Ricker and others not yet named offered bribes in the form of mortgage payments, airline tickets, meals and other gifts, and facilitated straw donations to public officials in exchange for favorable actions on the Greenbelt development project. While officials provided approval letters for the project’s detailed site plan and created a special taxing district, the project remains undeveloped.

Prosecutors say Mr. Granzow provided between $30,000 and $70,000 worth of bribes to public officials and others and he faces a maximum of five years in prison for each of the two offenses.

Among the county officials who have pleaded guity to their role in the bribery scheme are former County Executive Jack B. Johnson, and the former director of the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development, James Edward Johnson. The two are not related. Jack Johnson’s wife, current County Councilwoman Leslie E. Johnson, has also pleaded guilty to related charges that she attempted to destroy and hid bribe money given to her husband by developers as federal agents attempted to search the couple’s Mitchellville home in November.

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