Young probe focuses on fate of funds Grand jury questions past, present workers of health care firm

Checks totaled $91,175

State agents allege PrimeHealth money went to ex-senator

June 02, 1998|By Walter F. Roche Jr. and Scott Higham | Walter F. Roche Jr. and Scott Higham,SUN STAFF

ANNAPOLIS -- A grand jury investigating former state Sen. Larry Young attempted yesterday to learn in more detail what happened to nearly $100,000 in checks issued by a health care firm with close ties to the ousted Baltimore Democrat.

Christian Odilatu, a former office manager for PrimeHealth Corp. of Lanham, was questioned before the state grand jury for 15 minutes. He was followed by a Maryland State Police documents and handwriting expert who testified for an hour.

The Anne Arundel County panel is reviewing charges that Young used his Senate office to enrich himself and a series of corporations he controlled.

Young was expelled from the Senate on Jan. 16 for accepting gifts and fees from health care firms, including PrimeHealth, that had matters pending before a powerful health subcommittee he chaired. State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli, who is heading the state probe, led Odilatu to the witness room yesterday.

In an affidavit for a search warrant filed in Washington in April, state agents said they believed some or all of the PrimeHealth checks, totaling $91,175, went to Young. Many of the checks were made out to cash. In return, the investigators said, Young helped PrimeHealth secure a Maryland license and a lucrative state Medicaid contract.

On his way out of the jury room at noon, Odilatu acknowledged he was questioned about the checks, but he declined to elaborate. He said he left his job as a manager of PrimeHealth's computer system last year.

Two other witnesses, both PrimeHealth employees, also appeared before the grand jury yesterday. They were accompanied by Thurmond W. Zollicoffer Jr., a lawyer representing the health maintenance organization. All three declined to comment.

Ndukwe Emeruwa, a PrimeHealth vice president, who appeared before the same grand jury in April, was in the witness room for 40 minutes. He was allowed to examine a transcript of his earlier testimony before being questioned. Emeruwa also has been called twice to appear before a federal grand jury, which also is investigating corruption charges against Young.

The last witness to testify yesterday was an unidentified PrimeHealth employee believed to be an aide to the firm's chief financial officer, Albert St. Hillaire. She testified for about 40 minutes. St. Hillaire's signature was on most of the Prime Health checks the grand jury is scrutinizing, according to court records.

In the search warrant affidavit dated April 2, the state agents said they were examining allegations of "a possible illegal financial relationship between Sen. Young and PrimeHealth Corporation constituting bribery, misconduct in office and violation of the state Ethics Law."

The affidavit was drafted to support a subsequent raid on PrimeHealth's offices in Washington and in Lanham, where computers and boxes of files were seized by state agents.

The agents said in the affidavit that someone had apparently altered checks and other financial records in an effort to cover up an alleged bribery scheme. The agents said someone had apparently erased the initials "SLY," which had been written on reference lines of checks and on check registers.

The agents said "SLY" was "Senator Larry Young."

Yesterday, the state police document and handwriting expert brought an artist portfolio filled with documents into the grand jury room. After appearing before the panel for about an hour, he declined to discuss his testimony.

"I can't divulge anything," said the state police expert, David L. Sexton.

Pub Date: 6/02/98

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