Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson and his wife, Leslie, were arrested Friday in what FBI officials call a "pay-to-play scheme" allegedly involving favors for real estate developers in the county.
The Prince George's County political powers were taken into custody at about 12:30 p.m. Friday. Johnson and his wife were both charged with tampering with witnesses and evidence and destruction and falsification of records. Both are federal offenses. Each charge carries a maximum of 20 years in jail.
The Johnsons were released from jail Friday evening. Jack Johnson will have to wear an electronic monitoring device. He will be allowed to report to work and also to doctor appointments. Leslie Johnson will not be on home detention, but both must surrender their passports.
Johnson spoke briefly to reporters on Friday evening. "I've served [county residents] long and well," he said. Johnson said he can't go into allegations "because my lawyer would kill me," but he believes that when the facts surface, he will be proven innocent.
The county exec has three weeks to go on his term, and he said he will not be stepping down at this time.
Jack and Leslie Johnson returned separately to their home shortly before 7:45 p.m. Friday. Jack Johnson arrived first, waiting in the car while a driver looked for a key under the mat. He was ultimately able to contact someone inside the house, who partially raised the garage door.
Johnson waved to reporters before ducking under the garage door. Moments later, Leslie Johnson arrived, and also ducked under the door.
The judge in the case said that the Johnsons have to report any transactions they make over $1,000. This was because of the large number of alleged cash transactions described in the affidavit.
According to the affidavit: "Through an investigation initiated in January 2006, FBI agents learned that certain real estate developers based in Prince George's County and their associates were regularly providing things of value to public officials in exchange for official acts that were favorable to these individuals and their companies."
Richard McFeely said more interviews will be conducted over the next few months.
"The message is clear," McFeely said. "If you have information regarding a pay-to-play scheme in this county or this state, it is far better for you to talk to us now than for us to knock on your door."
According to the affidavit, Jack Johnson helped "Developer A," a Prince George's County developer, obtain HOME funds from the county for development projects. In return, Jack Johnson received cash and checks, including a check for $100,000, according to the affidavit.
On Nov. 5, Developer A gave Jack Johnson $5,000 cash in return for the county exec using his "official influence and authority" to help the developer and his company, the affidavit continued, and then on Friday, Developer A provided Jack Johnson $15,000 cash for more help. Authorities said they have audio and video recordings of that meeting.
After the meeting, FBI agents entered the room, asked Jack Johnson about the payments and were told the cash was for a party marking the end of his tenure as county executive and that he had not business dealings with Developer A, according to the affidavit.
The FBI then ordered a search warrant for the couple's home. In the meantime, the FBI intercepted phone calls between the Johnsons, according to the affidavit. When FBI agents arrived at their home, Leslie Johnson called her husband, who told her not to answer the door, according to the affidavit, and to instead go to their bedroom and get the $100,000 check and some cash.
He then told her to put the cash in her underwear and tear up the check, according to the affidavit, and then flush it down a toilet. FBI agents listening to the phone call said they overheard a flushing toilet in the background.
When FBI agents finally entered the home, they said they found nearly $80,000 in her underwear.
Unmarked police vehicles were seen at Johnson's home throughout the day with agents going in and out of the house. Jack Johnson also returned to the home during the day. FBI and IRS agents were at the home during the raid. A first-floor window near the front door was broken at some point and was boarded up in the afternoon.
A plumber who showed up at the scene said he was called to the home by FBI agents to make sure that no possible evidence was flushed down a toilet, Wilkins reported. He later left without finding anything. He said he was never told what he was looking for.
Jack Johnson eventually was escorted out of his home in handcuffs, NBC4's Tracee Wilkins reported. Leslie Johnson also was escorted out of the home with a coat over her head.
Jack Johnson, 61, has been the county executive since 2002. He was the county's state's attorney for eight years before becoming the county's chief executive. Leslie Johnson was recently elected to Prince George's County Council from District 6.
Johnson's staff told NBC4's Derrick Ward that if Johnson is unable to serve the county, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Health and Human Services Howard Burnett would be next in line.
Stay with NBC4 and NBCWashington.com for more information.