Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson, arrested in a corruption probe Friday, told his wife to hide tens of thousands of dollars in her underwear as federal agents arrived at his house to search for illegal payoffs from a developer, federal prosecutors have charged.
Caught in an FBI sting taking a $15,000 payment from an unnamed developer Friday, Mr. Johnson later told his wife by telephone not to answer the door when two FBI agents came to their home, authorities said.
The county executive, a Democrat who was previously the county’s top prosecutor, then told his wife, Leslie Johnson, to tear up a $100,000 check from the developer and stash tens of thousands of dollars in cash in her bra, authorities said in charging documents.
“Tear it up! That is the only thing you have to do,” Mr. Johnson told his wife, referring to the check, according to prosecutors.
Asked by his wife about “cash down in the basement,” the documents say Mr. Johnson replied, “Put it in your bra and walk out or something, I don’t know what to do.”
Later, Mr. Johnson told his wife to flush the check down the toilet, according to documents.
“Yes, flush that,” he said.
FBI agents, in a search of Mrs. Johnson, recovered $79,600 in cash from her underwear, officials said.
U.S. Attorney for Maryland Rod Rosenstein said the investigations are ongoing and that additional charges are expected.
Richard A. McFeely, special agent in charge of the FBI, said the charges followed a “long and complex investigation.”
“This investigation will continue to seek out corrupt officials and acts within all levels of Prince George’s County government,” he said.
Mrs. Johnson was recently elected but not yet sworn in to a spot on the county’s council.
Authorities, who had been monitoring Mr. Johnson’s cell phone since January, arrested the couple Friday. They appeared in federal court in Greenbelt where prosecutors unsealed an affidavit accusing them of tampering with evidence and destruction of records in a federal investigation, both felonies that carry up to 20 years in prison.
In an affidavit, authorities said that since 2006 the FBI has been looking into unnamed real estate developers in Prince George’s “regularly providing things of value to public officials” in exchange for favorable treatment.
The investigation led to a series of wiretaps from September 2009 through the present confirming “official corruption and extortion in Prince George’s County,” authorities said in the charging papers.