Harriette Walters, the self-confessed mastermind of D.C.’s largest-ever public corruption scandal, will meet with private auditors next week to help explain how she and a few friends managed to bilk the public out of nearly $50 million, The Examiner has learned.
Walters, 51, has already pleaded guilty to organizing her friends and family in a conspiracy that took tens of millions of dollars through decades’ worth of phony property tax returns. She’ll sit down with lawyers and accountants from WilmerHale, the law firm that has agreed to investigate the scandal for the city council, sources familiar with the investigation told The Examiner.
Details of the meeting are still being worked out, but Walters’ testimony could be damning for the city’s once-esteemed finance office. She has already admitted in court papers that she learned to skim tax returns from a supervisor, identified only as “Participant Five.” She lavished luxury gifts — from furs to designer furniture — on co-workers and supervisors. She also learned early on how to get around the finance office’s $120 million computerized accounting system and was tipped off by a co-worker as early as two months before her arrest that investigators were asking questions about the property tax returns.
Some public officials have openly wondered whether Walters is just the most conspicuous representative of “a culture of corruption” in city government. At least three dozen current and former finance officials have been interviewed or had their personnel records probed by WilmerHale auditors, sources told The Examiner. The firm’s report is due out early next month.
Bill McLucas, the WilmerHale lawyer leading the investigation, declined to comment Wednesday.
Councilwoman Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, told The Examiner she was glad to hear Walters was cooperating with the auditors.
“Finally, the District is going to have its chance to find out how this long-running, multimillion-dollar scam happened,” Cheh said. “And I would hope that we would learn at least two things: One, how to prevent any such thing from happening again. And two, whether we know every person and every account and every piece of property we can go after to recover our money.”