- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 11, 2006

From combined dispatches

President Bush yesterday said he was shocked and saddened to learn that former domestic policy adviser, Claude Allen, was charged with theft for purportedly receiving phony refunds at department stores.

“When I heard the story last night, I was shocked, and my first reaction was one of disappointment, deep disappointment — if it’s true — that we were not fully informed,” Mr. Bush said. “Shortly thereafter, I felt really sad for the Allen family.”

Mr. Allen, 45, was arrested Thursday by police in Montgomery County for purportedly claiming refunds for more than $5,000 worth of merchandise he did not buy, according to county and federal authorities. He had been under investigation since at least January for purported thefts on 25 occasions at Target and Hecht’s stores.

“If the allegations are true, Claude Allen did not tell my chief of staff and legal counsel the truth, and that’s deeply disappointing,” the president said at the White House. “If the allegations are true, something went wrong in Claude Allen’s life, and that is really sad.”

Mr. Allen was named as domestic policy adviser at the White House early last year. He resigned Feb. 9, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Mr. Allen served as Virginia’s secretary of health and human resources as part of former Gov. Jim Gilmore’s Cabinet from 1998 until he became Mr. Bush’s deputy secretary to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in March 2001.

He was also an unsuccessful nominee for a seat on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Richmond.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Mr. Allen called White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. on the night of Jan. 2, after a purported incident at Target in Gaithersburg.

The next morning, Mr. Allen spoke in person with Mr. Card and White House counsel Harriet Miers.

The White House spokesman said Mr. Allen told Mr. Card and Miss Miers that it was all a misunderstanding and cited confusion with his credit card because he had moved several times. “He assured them that he had done nothing wrong and the matter would be cleared up,” Mr. McClellan said.

The president first learned of Mr. Allen’s planned resignation and the January incident in early February. But since Mr. Allen had passed the usual background checks and had no other prior issues that White House officials were aware of, “he was given the benefit of the doubt,” Mr. McClellan said.

Mallon Snyder, a Gaithersburg lawyer representing Mr. Allen, said his client was not improperly trying to take the items. Mr. Snyder asked Target officials to produce videotape they said they have of Mr. Allen, but he said store representatives refused. He said he wants to meet with Target investigators to clear things up.

“It’s a misunderstanding on their part,” Mr. Snyder said, adding that the investigation had nothing to do with Mr. Allen’s departure from the White House.

Mr. Allen has been released on his own recognizance. Calls to his home in Gaithersburg were not returned.

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