Thursday, August 03, 2006

Ex-Bush Aide Makes Plea Deal in Thefts
Ex-Bush Aide Makes Plea Deal in Thefts
Claude Allen Might Avoid Jail, Files Show
By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer

Former White House adviser Claude A. Allen is expected to plead guilty tomorrow to a misdemeanor theft charge after reaching a deal with Montgomery County prosecutors that probably will spare him from jail, according to court documents filed yesterday.

As part of the agreement, Allen's attorneys and Montgomery prosecutors plan to recommend to a District Court judge in Rockville that Allen be given an $850 restitution fine.

Allen, 45, was charged in March with stealing more than $500 in merchandise and conspiracy to commit theft, which are felonies. A conviction on each is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

John McLane, a spokesman for the Montgomery state's attorney's office, declined to comment last night about the agreement, which was outlined in a plea memorandum signed by both parties and entered into Allen's file yesterday afternoon.

Mallon Snyder, one of Allen's attorneys, declined to comment "until everything is resolved."

Allen was arrested after Montgomery police accused him of stealing more than $5,000 in merchandise from Target and Hecht's stores through a refund scheme. Police said this is how the scheme worked: Allen would walk into a store, pick up items and pay for them. He would later return to the store, pick up identical items and seek a refund using the receipt from the purchase.

Police said he did this at least 25 times from October to January, buying items including a Bose home theater system, clothes and merchandise worth as little as $2.50. Several of the transactions were recorded by store surveillance cameras.

Shortly after his arrest, Snyder said Allen was innocent and attributed the transactions to a "series of misunderstandings."

Allen resigned as President Bush's top domestic policy adviser in February, shortly after police issued him a criminal theft citation stemming from a Jan. 2 incident at a Gaithersburg Target. Allen, who joined the White House at the beginning of Bush's second term, said he was resigning to spend more time with his family.

He appeared in court in March on the Jan. 2 misdemeanor theft charge, where he learned that prosecutors had dismissed it because police said they had obtained enough evidence to charge him with the felonies.

Allen was taken into custody at the courthouse. He was released shortly after his arrest and has lived at home while awaiting the outcome of the case.

Before joining the White House, Allen served as a deputy secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services and was nominated in 2003 for a federal appeals court seat. He also served as secretary of Health and Human Resources in Virginia.

Staff writer Allan Lengel contributed to this report.