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Developer sentenced for charges connected to Jack Johnson corruption case

Daniel Colton is last of 17 defendants to be sentenced in scheme

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The last of 17 criminals caught up in pay-to-play scheme that brought down former Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday, closing a chapter of an investigation that has stretched back more than eight years.

Developer Daniel Colton, 64, was one of several businessmen who admitted to bribing state and local government officials over the course of a decade by providing them gifts and illegal campaign contributions, according to court records.

Prosecutors in the office of U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said Colton sought to curry favor with elected officials to help with the approval process on a mixed-use project planned near the Greenbelt Metro Station.

But long after others pleaded guilty, were sentenced, and in some cases completed their prison terms, Colton's case has languished in U.S. District Court of Maryland, with prosecutors declining to explain the delay.

"He's been totally cooperative," said Colton's attorney, Andrew Graham, declining to comment further.

Federal authorities raided the offices of Colton and others in 2008 while investigating the corruption case. In 2010, Colton pleaded guilty to paying bribes worth between $400,000 and $1 million between 1997 and 2008 to officials including the county's former housing director, James Edward Johnson.

But his guilty plea was made in secret and kept under seal while federal authorities continued to investigate. It was unsealed in 2011, well after the arrest of Johnson and his wife, Leslie Johnson.

During at least part of the scheme, from 2001 to 2004, Colton was serving a jail term for his convictions on conspiracy and bank fraud charges related to several development projects in Maryland.

"The Defendant's choice to participate in a criminal scheme, again, provides a telling insight into the Defendant's character," prosecutors wrote in court filings. "He used his substantial skills, knowledge, and talents to engage in extortion and campaign finance fraud for his personal gain."

Mr. Graham said his client was disappointed in himself for getting mired in the corruption scheme.

"The description of the culture was that you had to pay to get on the playing field," Mr. Graham said. "No one contended that he invented this."

During the time he was engaged in the scheme, Colton was earning between several hundred thousand to millions of dollars annually through his development companies and still owns "millions of dollars in real estate, jewelry, and household furnishings," and he holds interests in other companies doing business in Maryland, prosecutors wrote.

Mr. Graham said Colton is currently doing consulting work and resides in Raleigh, N.C.

In addition to his sentence, U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte ordered Colton to pay a $50,000 fine and sentenced him to three years of supervised release after the completion of his prison term.

He has 45 days to report for his prison term and requested placement at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C., which is also where Johnson is currently serving his seven-year prison term.

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