Bush is `shocked' about arrest of ex-aide

Allen denies theft scheme allegations


WASHINGTON -- President Bush said he was "shocked" to hear of the arrest Thursday of his former domestic policy adviser, saying that if the theft charges against Claude A. Allen were true, the one-time judicial nominee had misled the White House.

Bush said he learned Friday night of the charges. His first reaction "was one of disappointment, deep disappointment, that -- if it's true -- that we were not fully informed," the president told reporters yesterday.

Bush tapped Allen in 2003 for a seat on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and in 2005 brought the rising conservative star to the White House. The president said that the charges, if true, suggested that "something went wrong in Claude Allen's life, and that is really sad."

Allen, a 45-year-old Gaithersburg man, is accused of stealing products worth more than $5,000 through a retail fraud scheme in which he allegedly obtained refunds for merchandise he never purchased, Montgomery County police said. The scheme included about 25 instances over several months, they said.

Mallon Snyder, Allen's lawyer, denied the charges and said they were the result of confusion about legitimate department store returns.

Police began investigating Allen on Jan. 2, after he was accosted by a Target employee who allegedly saw Allen getting a refund for products he did not buy, said Lt. Eric Burnett, a Montgomery County Police spokesman. The investigation turned up dozens of other instances in which Allen allegedly would buy merchandise and later return with his receipt to select the same items and -- without paying -- "return" them for a refund, Burnett said.

Allen denies the Jan. 2 account, Snyder said. Allen reported the incident that night to Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, and told Card and Harriet E. Miers, Bush's counsel, the next day "that the incident was a misunderstanding," said Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary. At the time, Allen told Miers "that he was returning some merchandise [and] there was confusion with his credit cards because he had moved a number of times," McClellan said.

Allen did not returns phone calls to his home. He has been released on his own recognizance.


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