- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 17, 2004

An aide to former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has been indicted on charges of diverting $6.3 million in federal crime-fighting funds to pay staffers working on Mrs. Townsend’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign.

Stephen P. Amos was the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) under Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat. He was charged Tuesday with using crime-fighting money to add 40 persons to his staff and to pay 10 of Mrs. Townsend’s staffers, including her deputy chief of staff and several speech writers.

“In sum, the indictment alleges that rather than making sure the federal money was spent the way it was supposed to be spent, the defendant diverted the money to pay individuals working with the lieutenant governor’s staff and at GOCCP,” said Thomas DiBiagio, U.S. attorney for Maryland.

Mrs. Townsend focused on crime-fighting in her two terms as lieutenant governor and led the crime-control office during much of that time. She was defeated by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, in the 2002 gubernatorial election.

“I was in charge of all the anticrime efforts in the state,” Mrs. Townsend told the Associated Press in a phone interview yesterday, when asked whether any of the staff in the lieutenant governor’s office were paid with crime-control office funds.

She declined to elaborate, other than saying of Mr. Amos, “He is a fine individual and a public servant, and he’s made a great contribution to the state of Maryland.”

The federal probe became public during the 2002 gubernatorial race. At the time, Mrs. Townsend dismissed the investigation as “political garbage” designed to disrupt her campaign.

Mr. Ehrlich replaced Mr. Amos, who served as the agency’s executive director from July 2000 to February 2003, shortly after he took office. Representatives of the Ehrlich administration did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Mrs. Townsend last year took a job as president of the nonprofit group Operation Respect: Don’t Laugh At Me, which distributes an anti-bullying curriculum to schools. She also is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute.

The state crime-control office acts as a conduit for many federal grants, including money to stem underage drinking, juvenile-justice programs and substance-abuse prevention. The agency also administers federal grants for the Hot Spots crime-prevention effort and programs to prevent violence against women. The office hands out about $45 million per year.

The three-count, eight-page indictment against Mr. Amos is the first to be returned from a two-year investigation into the misappropriation of funds. Vickie LeDuc, a spokeswoman for Mr. DiBiagio, said that no other indictments are imminent and that the probe revealed no wrongdoing on the part of Mrs. Townsend.

The indictment charges that to cover up the diversion of funds, Mr. Amos required grant recipients to add persons to their payrolls that actually worked for the crime-control office and to create records that listed them as “faculty research assistants” or similar titles.

Gregg Bernstein, Mr. Amos’s attorney, said that the charges are baseless and that Mr. Amos complied with regulations governing how employees can be paid using grant money.

“At worst, it’s a misapplication from an administrative standpoint,” Mr. Bernstein said. “It’s an issue of whether they were paid out of the right pot. The government says they weren’t, we say they were. But regardless, it’s mind-boggling that the U.S. attorney would bring these charges.”

Mr. Amos faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $750,000 if convicted.

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