Subpoenas mark winding trail in Larry Young case Prosecutors examining fraud, bribery and theft charges, experts say

March 27, 1998|By Walter F. Roche Jr. and Scott Higham | Walter F. Roche Jr. and Scott Higham,SUN STAFF

First came the front-page headlines. Then the subpoenas. Now comes the hard part.

Federal and state prosecutors examining corruption charges against former state Sen. Larry Young are reviewing thousands of documents subpoenaed by grand juries to assess whether they have enough evidence to obtain indictments and convictions.

It could be months before the grand juries decide whether to indict, and months more before any criminal charges reach courtroom. But while prosecutors are working in secrecy, a road map of their investigation is beginning to emerge.

A review of federal and state subpoenas and state ethics committee records, along with interviews with law enforcement and legal experts, reveals the investigative paths that prosecutors are following, the legal theories they are likely to pursue, and how lawyers might defend Young -- once one of the most powerful politicians in Maryland's General Assembly.

The subpoenas and interviews show that prosecutors are trying to establish whether Young committed fraud, bribery, theft, misconduct or money laundering by blending his public office with business interests.

Young's attorneys say they are optimistic about the case.

"We are hopeful that after they've looked at the facts, they will agree with our assessment that there have been no violations of any laws," said defense attorney Gregg L. Bernstein.

The probes, which are being coordinated by the U.S. attorney's office and the state prosecutor's office, are in their infancy. State and FBI agents have served dozens of subpoenas. This spring or early summer, grand jurors will summon witnesses to testify.

Proving a case won't be easy.

"You have to be sure before you indict that you're going to win a conviction," said David B. Irwin, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in defending white-collar criminal cases. "Everybody realizes that a public official will have to pay a price, and the public has a right to be vindicated. So you better be darn sure."

Legal experts say U.S. prosecutors will likely rely on statutes dealing with mail and wire fraud, money laundering, bribery, and theft from an agency or program that receives federal funding. State prosecutors are expected to base a potential case on Maryland's official misconduct, fraud, bribery and theft laws.

Before he was expelled Jan. 16, Young served as chairman of the Senate Finance Health Subcommittee and the Senate Executive Nominations Committee. As head of the health panel, Young oversaw every major piece of health care legislation in Maryland. As chairman of the nominations committee, he handled every political appointment from the governor.

Young ran several corporations out of his West Baltimore district office. Two of them specialize in health care -- the LY Group and the National Black Health Study Group. Young used a third corporation, the American Advocate, to organize a religious event at Oriole Park at Camden Yards last fall.

Trail of subpoenas

According to the trail of subpoenas, it appears that state and federal prosecutors are examining the fees and payments that health care companies and others gave to Young and his corporations.

Prosecutors apparently are exploring Young's relationship with Gov. Parris N. Glendening and his staff, and any ties the governor's office might have had to the corporations that paid Young and won state work.

While numerous corporations have donated money to Young and his firms, prosecutors are looking primarily at Merit Behavioral Care Corp. of New Jersey, and PrimeHealth Corp. of Lanham, according to the subpoenas.

Merit and PrimeHealth paid tens of thousands of dollars to Young and his firms. Young provided critical help to Merit and PrimeHealth. Before becoming a paid consultant for Merit, Young helped draft a state plan to move Medicaid recipients into managed care, creating the need for a new mental health contract.

While the state was reviewing bids from Merit and others to provide the new mental health services in 1996, Merit arranged a Manhattan fund-raiser for Glendening. The governor said he didn't know that Merit was bidding. When the contract went before the Board of Public Works two months later, Glendening abstained from voting and the deal went to a joint venture between CMG Health Inc. of Owings Mills and Green Spring Health Services Inc. of Columbia.

Merit later purchased CMG and took over the contract. Magellan Health Services Inc., a company that also owns Green Spring, has since purchased Merit.

After the fund-raiser episode, Merit hired the LY Group, paying Young's firm $7,000 a month in consulting fees. Merit also donated $25,000 to help sponsor a conference that Young organized in Las Vegas last fall through his study group.

Young and his firms collected at least $115,400 from Merit.

Subpoenas show prosecutors are keenly interested in the Merit episode. Subpoenas have been served on Young, the LY Group, Glendening's office and Merit.

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