- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2007

An employee of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has been charged with bribery after trying to extort thousands of dollars in cash payments from a hotel in Northwest.

Ikela Marcea Dean, 31, was arrested Sept. 14 after an investigation into corruption at DCRA, the District’s main permitting agency.

Court records show that Miss Dean this summer told the chief engineer at an unidentified hotel that he could pick up his approved licenses for 16 elevators for a payment of $2,736, plus additional late fees because the hotel had passed its deadline for renewing the licenses.

Miss Dean requested that $1,050 in late fees be paid to her in cash, and court records show that she “purported to confirm with her supervisor” while on the phone with a hotel official that the payments should be made in cash.

However, other DCRA officials later told the hotel’s assistant controller that it was not normal to pay in cash.

Investigators on Sept. 7 recorded a conversation in which Miss Dean “indicated to the [hotel official] that DCRA would approve the elevator renewal license if the Hotel paid for the license by check and paid a late fee in cash,” a copy of the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court states.

Once the hotel gave Miss Dean the two payments, she took them to the DCRA cashier’s office and had a check for the license payment validated with a receipt stamped by the D.C. Office of Tax & Revenue. She did not have a receipt for the cash stamped the same way.

Records from the D.C. office of the chief financial officer also did not show the $1,050 cash transaction.

Later, during a phone call recorded by investigators, Miss Dean told the hotel that she would approve a temporary license for a cigar bar for a $475 check and another late, or back fee, payment of $1,275 in cash, records show.

“There is probable cause to believe that Ikela Dean has committed bribery by demanding that the late fees be paid in cash in return for being influenced in the official act of approving the elevator licenses,” the complaint says.

Miss Dean was released on her own recognizance after her arrest, but the bribery collar is another black mark for DCRA.

In June, a former agency employee — Yaw Oteng-Agipong — was sentenced to 60 days in jail for offering a $2,000 bribe to a building inspector to expedite a building permit process.

Oteng-Agipong was not employed by DCRA when he offered the bribe.

DCRA also has been targeted for reform by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty after years of complaints by residents and businesses about unnecessary delays in the permitting process.

In recent months, officials have worked to streamline DCRA by starting an online permitting process and opening a redesigned permitting center.

Karyn-Siobhan Robinson, an agency spokeswoman, did not disclose what title Miss Dean held at DCRA. She said officials requested assistance from law enforcement when they were made aware of the charges against Miss Dean.

“When DCRA learned of criminal allegations against an employee, the agency immediately asked for help,” Miss Robinson said.

A preliminary hearing for Miss Dean is scheduled for Nov. 27.

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