A father's journey into the land of guilt Architect admits to laundering alleged drug money for his son

August 17, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

HAGERSTOWN -- Walk down North Potomac Street, and it's clear that this town bears the mark of architect George Weller Bushey.

His firm designed the North Potomac Parking Garage. Down the street is an addition the company created for the YMCA.

Farther along, in a refurbished old house that sits off the street, are the offices of Bushey Associates, the area's largest and most prominent architecture firm.

So it's no wonder that Hagerstown is asking how George Bushey -- a leader in his field, a man described by friends as a pillar of the community -- could wind up ensnared in the war on drugs.

"If he were some sleaze bag . . . this would be a little easier for us to take," says John Corkill, president of the Potomac Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, who has known Mr. Bushey for 28 years.

"He is a man that is selfless in serving the profession and his community. . . . I'm just really sick about it."

Mr. Bushey pleaded guilty in June to a conspiracy charge involving allegations that he laundered drug money for his son, George Kent Bushey, 36, of Bowie.

The rest of the drama will play out this fall, when the father is sentenced and the son is tried on charges of dealing cocaine and evading taxes.

To hear the elder Bushey tell it, he is simply a father tripped up in his zeal to help his son get his life together.

"My crime is the crime of any parent who loves his children and wants to see them do well and become self-sufficient," he told reporters June 2, the day after he pleaded guilty.

"I allowed my love and commitment to my family to blind me as to what was truly going on."

To the Internal Revenue Service, it is money laundering, pure and simple.

An indictment filed in the spring charged that Bushey and his son -- who goes by his middle name, Kent -- used Bushey Associates and the father's personal accounts to hide the truth about Kent's employment and income.

Between October 1986 and the end of 1989, the indictment said, more than $90,000 in cash and cashier's checks were deposited into bank accounts belonging to George Bushey or his company.

In his guilty plea, George Bushey admitted that the money was used to pay Kent a fake salary, to buy real estate, and to give Christmas bonuses to some employees of Bushey Associates.

He also admitted that he had helped conceal his son's actual income by creating false W-2 forms for him.

According to the indictment, Kent Bushey filed false tax returns in 1986, 1987 and 1988.

The IRS alleges that those returns concealed the source of his money -- cocaine sales. They also listed wages of between $8,640 and $21,600 when his real income was "substantially" greater, the IRS charges.

The IRS places the loss to the government at between $20,000 and $40,000.

Year in jail possible

George Bushey could receive up to a year in jail, and a fine up to $20,000 when he is sentenced Sept. 21.

Kent Bushey, who the indictment alleges sold at least 5 kilos of cocaine worth more than $125,000, is to stand trial Oct. 25.

If convicted, the son would face a sentence of up to life in prison and fines of up to $4 million, plus any civil tax payments, penalties or interest.

George Weller Bushey is one of the last people whom Hagerstown expected to see enmeshed in scandal.

His family -- two daughters, now grown, and Kent -- lived the good life in Hagerstown.

Their rambling white house is nestled among the manicured lawns surrounding the Fountain Head Country Club, where the elder Mr. Bushey is a member.

George Bushey is a fixture on the club circuit -- a member of the Elks, the Moose and the American Legion. When his son was young, he managed the boy's Little League baseball team and coached basketball and junior football.

Like other members of prominent Hagerstown families, his son attended St. James School, a local private prep school.

He then went on to study industrial education and industrial technology at Rockmont College and the University of Maryland.

But Kent never seemed to get established.

He never finished his degree at College Park, and afterward he worked odd jobs, doing construction work and selling ads for a telephone book.

Bushey pauses while weighing his next words about his son.

"His lifestyle was a little loose," he says.

Did his son have a drug problem? "I still don't know," Mr. Bushey says. "I don't want to know. I've never asked."

He did know, however, that as a parent he needed to do something to help his son.

His own father, who owned a lumberyard and put him through school, taught him always to put his children first.

And that, Mr. Bushey insists, is what moved him to take steps he now admits were wrong.

Still, he says, he never imagined the tens of thousands of dollars that he laundered for his son might have come from drug sales.

"Perhaps I was naive," he told reporters, "but I simply did not inquire as to the source of the money."

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