DC council chairman charged with bank fraud

By ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press
11:49 a.m., June 6, 2012

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the District of Columbia Council was charged Wednesday with lying about his income on loan applications, the latest allegation of criminal wrongdoing to roil the local government in the nation's capital.

Kwame R. Brown, one of the most influential leaders in D.C. government, was charged with a single count of bank fraud and accused of overstating his income by tens of thousands of dollars. He was charged in a criminal information, a document that generally signals that a defendant has agreed to plead guilty.

Brown becomes the second D.C. councilmember since January to be criminally charged.

The allegations also come as federal authorities investigate the 2010 campaign of Mayor Vincent Gray, who preceded Brown as council chairman.

Brown's lawyer, Frederick Cooke, did not return calls seeking comment and did not speak to reporters camped outside of Brown's office ahead of a closed-door 3 p.m. meeting with fellow councilmembers. The U.S. attorney's office said it would have no comment.

Court papers say Brown misstated his income by tens of thousands of dollars on loan applications submitted in 2005 for a home equity loan and for a new boat. Federal authorities had also been investigating his 2008 campaign for financial improprieties, but the charging documents do not include any campaign-related allegations.

The council functions as a state legislature in D.C., with its 13 members voting on legislation and a multi-billion-dollar budget that affects all corners of city life. The chairman hands out committee assignments, convenes meetings, oversees the budget process and introduces legislation at the behest of the mayor.

D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham, speaking before the council meeting, said the charge ends what had been a period of uncertainty.

"It's an opportunity for real change, he said, adding that he was hopeful about the future.

"I believe, though, optimistically that we have the resources within the council, within this government, to pull out of this and to reach a point ... where something positive is going to happen," he said.

Brown was charged six months after then-Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. pleaded guilty to stealing more than $350,000 in city funds earmarked for youth sports and arts programs. Thomas resigned and was replaced in a special election last month.

In a separate investigation, two former campaign aides to Gray pleaded guilty to charges stemming from illicit payments intended to encourage a minor candidate in the race to badmouth Adrian Fenty, the then-incumbent.

Brown was elected to the council in 2004 and ascended to chairman in January 2011, after Gray became mayor. He stumbled early on last year, when he gave back a fully loaded Lincoln Navigator SUV that he had specifically requested and that cost the city nearly $2,000 a month. A report from a fellow councilmember found that city officials broke the law by providing the SUV to Brown.

DC council chairman charged with bank fraud | UTSanDiego.com