- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A letter from Bill White in 2003 provides further evidence of his extensive work to assist the grocery chain with its development projects throughout the state.

Mr. Currie thanked Mr. White in the letter, dated Sept. 26, 2003, for donating to some of his favorite charities and reported on the status of a proposal for a new Shoppers store at Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore.

Mr. Currie is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation of possible mail and wire fraud for his previously undisclosed work on behalf of Shoppers Food Warehouse. As the chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, he lobbied frequently on behalf of the grocery chain and was paid more than $200,000 between 2003 and last year, according to court documents.

In the letter, Mr. Currie updated Mr. White about the status of a Shoppers store that is a focal point of the FBI’s investigation.

Former Rouse Co., the owner of Mondawmin, Mr. Currie wrote in the letter. The document was released Monday by the state in response to the state Public Information Act requests from multiple news outlets.

The mall was set for a renovation and a state business loan that would eventually bring a new Shoppers store to West Baltimore. Federal investigators, in an affidavit, said they were searching for information about the Shoppers’ location in Mondawmin, a liquor license that was transferred between Shoppers stores in Prince George’s and any legislation that would have affected the grocery chain.

The Shoppers store opened at Mondawmin last year.

Mr. Currie’s attorney, Dale P. Kelberman, could not be reached for comment Monday. Mr. DiPaula did not return a call made to his office Monday afternoon.

No charges have been filed in the case.

Mr. Currie struck a cordial tone with the then-chief executives of Shoppers in the letter, which was drafted on Senate letterhead.

“I certainly enjoyed the Golf Tournament on last Monday and was very impressed with the work you are doing and the wonderful donation made to the Head Start Program,” Mr. Currie wrote. “As I am sure you know this is a program close to my heart. The contribution to Johns Hopkins was also wonderful.”

It’s not clear from the letter what Mr. DiPaula was doing with regard to the Mondawmin store, although at the time, the Rouse Co. was having trouble relocating a Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) office to make room for the Shoppers store.

Mr. DiPaula is “working with Rouse but he needs a little more time - 2-3 weeks,” Mr. Currie wrote. Then-MVA Administrator Anne Ferro wrote a letter to Mr. Currie two months later detailing the options available for relocating the MVA’s Mondawmin office.

Lawmakers routinely inquire on the status of projects in their districts, including road improvements and economic development plans, state administrators have noted. But Mr. Currie’s advocacy for the Mondawmin Shoppers - which is more than 30 miles from his Prince George’s County district - extended beyond the relocation of the MVA.

Mr. Currie called a meeting at his Senate office in 2004 with state officials and Shoppers executives, including Mr. White, to discuss the $3.6 million loan for the Mondawmin Mall - which Shoppers executives argued was necessary for their store to be competitive.

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