It was still dark last Wednesday morning when the cleaning crews pulled into the alley behind a Washington, D.C., mall, but not so dark that they didnât notice some unusual items left for them to pick up with the rest of the trash. The two 3-foot-high servers were clearly labeled âPROPERTY OF D.C. OFFICE OF TAX AND REVENUE.â
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Now, who puts a server out on the street? More to the point, who would dump servers belonging to an agency thatâs in the midst of a federal investigation of whatâs described as the biggest corruption scandal in the cityâs history? (See our artful rendering of what it might have looked like above.)
The garbage collectors notified Melvin Barnes, the building maintenance man.
âAt first, I was thinking, âMan, who's putting this stuff here?ââ said Barnes. âBut when I saw the labels of the tax office, with all this stuff going on, I was like, âUh oh.ââ
âAll this stuffââthe alleged embezzlement of at least $20 million in a money-laundering scheme and its investigationâ has been front-page news in Washington for months. Two employees of the city tax office are among the ten people whoâve been arrested in connection with the scandal.
The former supervisor of the tax office, Harriette Walters, has been charged with approving hundreds of fraudulent property tax refund checks made out to to phony companies and handing them over to a group of her relatives and friends. She allegedly instructed her co-conspirators to cash the checks at a Baltimore branch of Bank of America, where Walter Jones, the former assistant bank manager of the branch, would accept them. In one month alone, three bogus checks totaling $1.1 million were cashed through Bank of America. Jones was arrested last December.