They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

All Muck Is Local: D.C. Data Disposal

Walters’s niece, Jayrece Turnbull, who’s charged as one of the principal conspirators in the case, maintained several accounts at Bank of America in the name of companies that were either non-existent or didn’t own property in D.C. Federal prosecutors say Turnbull used these as fronts to launder the money generated by the illegal checks.

The Washington Post analyzed records and found $44.3 million in 160 suspicious property tax refund checks issued by the city since 1999. For at least 10 years, the scam proceeded unimpeded.

On Wednesday morning, Barnes consulted with the Tivoli Square property manager, Mary Ellen Bayer. They called the office of Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, whose agency oversees the tax office, as well as the Police Department.

“When I remembered the scandal that happened in that office, I thought giving it back to the tax office wasn't necessarily the right thing to do,” said Bayer on Thursday. “There was no way this was the standard procedure to get rid of D.C. government computers. It appeared someone was trying to get rid of information.”

Police officers picked up the servers and delivered them to the city technological office.

But after inquiries from The Washington Post, the police retrieved the computers from the city. By late Thursday they were in F.B.I. custody. The agency will examine them for data that may be used as evidence of corruption in the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue.

According to Barnes, he received calls on Thursday from the tax office and the office of the Chief Financial Officer. Both were looking for the servers and asking that they be returned.

“I told them,” said Barnes, “‘You'll have to call the police. They have them now.’”