Ex-aide to Bush charged in thefts

Allen, once top adviser, accused of retail scheme

March 11, 2006|By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS | JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS,SUN REPORTER

Claude A. Allen, a former top adviser and judicial nominee of President Bush, was arrested Thursday and charged with fraudulently obtaining store refunds for dozens of retail items he never purchased.

Allen, 45, is accused of stealing more than $5,000 in a "retail theft scheme" that included about 25 of the fraudulent refunds over the past year at Target and Hecht's stores, Montgomery County police officials said.

Bush's former domestic policy adviser abruptly resigned Feb. 9, pointing to a desire to spend more time with his family.

"If it is true, no one would be more shocked and more outraged than the president," said Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary.

Bush learned of the charges last night. But Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, and Harriet E. Miers, the counsel, knew Allen was under suspicion for theft as early as January, more than a month before he resigned.

Allen referred calls about his arrest to a Rockville lawyer, Mallon Snyder, who said the charges were "confusion that we feel we can explain."

Allen, a conservative protege of former Republican Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, had been the highest-ranking African-American on Bush's staff when he resigned his post.

He was viewed as a rising star in his party, having previously served as the No. 2 official at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Bush tapped Allen in April 2003 for a seat on the Richmond, Va.-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but his nomination languished on Capitol Hill amid a broader standoff over the president's conservative judicial picks.

Allen's nomination died at the end of 2004, and Bush did not resubmit it to Congress, choosing to bring Allen to the White House in January 2005.

When Allen left the post last month, Bush issued a statement calling him "a good and compassionate man," and saying Allen had "my deep respect and my gratitude."

Police said their investigation uncovered a string of incidents in which Allen bought products, left the store with them and returned later with his receipt. He would then select the same items he had purchased and - without paying for them - go to a customer service desk with his receipt to obtain a refund, police said.

The items included clothing and stereo equipment, police said.

Allen was arrested at the county courthouse in Rockville, where he was appearing on a separate theft charge related to one of the fraudulent refunds, said Lt. Eric Burnett, a Montgomery County police spokesman.

julie.davis@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Gwyneth K. Shaw and researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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