One of the main cogs in the pay-for-pay scandal involving former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson was sentenced Tuesday to 37 months in prison.

The former chief of the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development, James Johnson, no relation to the former county executive, was sentenced for his role in the scandal that rocked the county in fall of 2010. He had pleaded guilty to soliciting and accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from developers.

According to the federal investigation, Johnson received between $400,000 and $1 million while serving as the former county executive’s go-to guy to hold up or speed up the process of getting development deals done.

Surveillance tapes show extensive conversations the two men had about Dr. Mirza Baig, a former business partner of Jack Johnson, who was trying to purchase several properties in the county in 2010.

In one conversation, Jack Johnson told James Johnson about how he could set himself up by extorting money out of developers like Baig.

“We need to, you know, keep talking and things like that, but you’re right I think,” Jack Johnson said. “You don’t’ need to go back to South Carolina right now. You know you can make yourself a couple hundred (thousand) dollars minimum every year you know; where you can put 50 to 75 (thousand) in the bank. You know what I mean.

“Two years and you got a couple hundred thousand dollars…you know…cash,” Jack said. “Then you can go and you get your little retirement…you know. You just want something nice in South Carolina you know what I mean.”
James Johnson was hired after the previous director, Thomas Thompson, was fired for failing to handle distribute HUD funding in the county. That blight never left the county even as James Johnson took over.

Johnson was the 15th person to be sentenced in connection to the play-for-pay scheme. Business owners, police officers, Jack Johnson and his wife, former County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, have all been sentenced and some are already serving time.

James Johnson will also have to pay a $25,000 fine and forfeit $46,300 that was found in his safe deposit box. He will also be placed on two years’ probation following his release.

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO