A prominent developer who cooperated with federal authorities in sending 16 other defendants to jail in an extortion scheme involving former Prince George's County executive Jack Johnson will spend two years in prison.
Prince George's developer Daniel Ira Colton was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit extortion and to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission. He was also ordered to pay a $50,000 fine, reports WUSA TV.
Colton was one of three local businessmen who pleaded guilty to trying to bribe county officials — using airline tickets, rounds of golf, hotel rooms and meals — to win favorable treatment for their development deals, including an investment near the Greenbelt Metro station, says The Washington Post.
Colton, who cooperated with the FBI for more than five years, is the final defendant to be sentenced in the investigation that highlighted a “pay-to-play” culture in the county and ensnared Johnson and his wife, former County Council member Leslie Johnson.
Johnson, who prosecutors say began pressuring developers soon after taking office in 2002, is serving a seven-year sentence in a North Carolina prison facility that Colton has asked to be assigned to, the newspaper says.
Leslie Johnson served a one-year sentence after pleading guilty to destroying evidence, notably by flushing a $100,000 check down the toilet and stuffing $79,600 in her bra as federal agents arrived at her house.
According to court documents, in early 2006, FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents began investigating corruption, campaign finance violations, and tax fraud allegations related to real estate developers and Prince George's County officials.
Colton, developer Patrick Ricker and retired Prince George's County Fire Department official Karl Granzo had an ownership interest in Greenbelt Metropark, which sought to build a mixed-use project near the Greenbelt Metro Station, according to officials.
According to his guilty plea and court documents, from 1997 through at least September 11, 2008, Colton and others offered money, trip expenses, meals, drinks, hotel rooms, airline tickets, and other items to state and local government officials, including former Director of Prince George's County Department of Housing and Community Development James Edward Johnson. Documents show from 2001 through 2004, Colton served a 38-month federal sentence for conspiracy and bank fraud related to development projects in Maryland.
Colton, Ricker, Granzow and others conspired to provide between $400,000 and $1 million in bribes to public officials in return for official action, according to WUSA. Colton pleaded guilty to the charges on Sept. 13, 2010.
Other defendants that have been convicted in the related investigations of corruption, include Jack Johnson, then county executive and former state's attorney; Leslie Johnson, an elected county councilwoman and Jack Johnson's wife; Mirza Hussain Baig, a physician and developer in the county; Amrik Singh Melhi, a business owner in the county; and, Ravinder Melhi, an owner of numerous businesses in the county. They also pleaded guilty to extortion, bribery, state and federal campaign finance violations, and fraud, which all evolved from the pay-to-play culture in the county. They have been sentenced to up to 87 months in prison.