Gandhi's tenure marred by theft

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Local,DC,Liz Farmer

Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi has long touted his reputation on Wall Street as a fiscally responsible manager of D.C.'s books, but his 12-year tenure has been marred by multiple embezzlements within his agency.

The most egregious theft was discovered in 2007, when investigators said D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue Manager Harriette Walters had stolen $48 million in the largest public corruption scandal in city history. Walters had siphoned off the money by manipulating an antiquated property tax refund system over 17 years.

Investigators found Walters spent most of the money on herself on gambling and lavish buying sprees. In a raid on her home, investigators found 100 pieces of jewelry, a mink coat, 90 designer handbags

and piles of cash reportedly stored in her bathtub.

Walters and 10 co-conspirators in the scheme eventually pleaded guilty to theft. But the fact that the embezzlement had occurred over Gandhi's entire tenure brought calls for the CFO's resignation.

The calls prompted hearings and lengthy questioning of Gandhi, but ultimately, officials seemed content to let him clean up the mess in his office.

But problems remained. Earlier this year, Mary Ayers-Zander, a former tax examiner for the tax office, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for stealing $400,000 in an embezzlement scheme that began just after the Walters' theft was uncovered.

Ayers-Zander credited the taxpayer accounts of several people and had $365,000 wired to her own personal bank accounts in 48 separate transfers, authorities said. An additional $46,000 was fraudulently credited to other people.

Now, with questions being raised about tax reassessment, lawmakers are quicker to aim the blame at Gandhi.

"I'm not interested in throwing anybody else under the bus until the leadership is held accountable," Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser said Wednesday.

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Liz Farmer

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner