- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Metropolitan Police detectives have begun an investigation into thousands of dollars in phony checks containing account information from D.C. Council member Jim Graham’s constituent-services fund.

The probe, disclosed in a search warrant affidavit filed in federal court in the District last week, focuses on seven checks worth a total of about $5,000 bearing the account number of the Friends of Jim Graham Constituent Service Fund.

According to the affidavit, the investigation began last month after police received a complaint from Ted Loza, chief of staff for Mr. Graham, Ward 1 Democrat.

The document states that the forged checks were computer-generated and made out in the name of “Friends of Jimm Graham.”

Mr. Graham and Mr. Loza were out of town yesterday, but a spokesman for the council member said the office does not know who passed the phony checks or how the person obtained the account information.

“This was not an inside job,” Graham spokesman Alan Heymann said.

“Council member Graham was extremely upset to find out this was happening, and that’s why we notified the authorities, and we’ve been cooperating in their investigation,” Mr. Heymann said.

“We don’t have any reason to believe that anyone who works for our office was involved,” he said.

A police spokesman yesterday declined to confirm or deny the investigation and would not say whether anyone has been charged.

According to court records, police filed an affidavit in federal court to search a home in the 1500 block of Ninth Street Northwest as part of the investigation.

The affidavit says the checks bore Mr. Graham’s forged signature and were made out to people who the council member does not know.

Mr. Heymann said that the stolen money has been replaced by the council member’s bank and that constituents will not lose any money.

Constituent-service funds differ from campaign funds in that the money cannot be spent for political purposes.

Council members can spend a maximum of $40,000 per year “for the purpose of providing services to the residents” of the District, according to rules issued by the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance.

Mr. Graham’s latest report shows total expenditures of $8,443 this year. Money has been spent on scholarships, a neighborhood block party and contributions for needy constituents’ utility bills.

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