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Four charged in alleged Prince George's County liquor board conspiracy

Associated Press

Two Prince George's County liquor board officials and two business owners have been charged in an alleged bribery conspiracy in which officials were paid for favorable liquor license actions, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Board director David Dae Sok Son, 40, of Bowie and commissioner Anuj Sud, 39, of Hyattsville, as well as two business owners, Young Jung Paig, 62, of Beltsville and Shin Ja Lee, 55, of Landover are charged with bribery and conspiracy. Paig owns Central Avenue Restaurant & Liquor Store and Lee owns Palmer Liquor Store.

Court records did not list lawyers for the defendants.

Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday that Sud should resign from his post on the liquor board. Hogan, a Republican, appointed Sud to the liquor board after a recommendation from Prince George's County Democratic leaders, but he said he does not know Sud personally.

"He needs to resign from the board immediately," Hogan said. "In fact, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea if we had the entire liquor board of Prince George's County resign over these disgraceful things."

Court documents state that two of the informants involved in the investigation are elected officials who are targets of a public corruption investigation. One has ceased cooperating with the FBI but has signed a plea agreement. Officials believe the other will ultimately be charged in the investigation.

Son solicited and facilitated bribes ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 from lobbyists and business owners, including Paig and Lee, according to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint. It's alleged that Son facilitated payments to an elected official for help moving a business to the county and for grants the official controlled.

In 2015, Son solicited and facilitated bribe payments from lobbyists and business owners who were interested in a bill that established up to 100 Sunday liquor sales permits in the county, prosecutors allege. After the bill passed, Son arranged a lunch with an elected official, Paig and Lee. Prosecutors allege that Son told the official to meet Paig in the bathroom, where Paig is "going to hook you up." Paig gave the official an envelope containing $4,000 cash, the documents state. Months later, Son received a $4,000 bribe payment from a lobbyist for his assistance in ensuring that the lobbyist's clients received Sunday sales licenses, according to prosecutors.

Lee and Paig later talked to Son about getting beneficial legislation introduced related to the Sunday sales bill and indicated that they would be willing to pay $50,000 to make that happen, court documents allege. Son spoke with a second elected official who agreed to introduce legislation and arranged for Paig and Lee to meet the official to make a "down payment," the documents state.

After the meeting, prosecutors allege, law enforcement officials watched as Paig got in the elected official's car. After he got out, they allege, the official drove to a bank in the same shopping center and deposited $4,000. Bank surveillance video shows the official pulling a stack of cash out of his right and left pockets and handing them to the teller.

Court documents allege Sud solicited bribes from a lobbyist in exchange for assistance with liquor board matters. Later, Sud and the lobbyist discussed Sud's voting favorably in two pending hearings concerning the lobbyist's clients in exchange for money, the documents state. They add that Sud took favorable action on behalf of the lobbyist's client at two separate hearings in 2015, and after each hearing the lobbyist gave Sud $1,000 cash for Sud's assistance.

Hogan said he was disappointed at the revelations made by federal authorities but that he was nonetheless glad to see charges brought.

"We've heard rumors and allegations for decades about what might be going on. ... They've done a thorough investigation, and they're going to come down hard on some of the liquor board members and some of the staff and we'll see what shakes out. But it's a mess," Hogan said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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