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Watchdog: Accountability

Prince George's County worker arrested on extortion, harassment charges

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson,Prince Georges County,Accountability

A Prince George's County employee was arrested on charges of extortion and harassment Thursday, after he allegedly used his position to get money from a restaurant owner.

John Cleveland Brown, 52, of Clinton, a building inspector for the county's Department of Environmental Resources, allegedly harassed the owner of Levi's Restaurant in Clinton, asking the owner to pay $1,000 a week for Brown's band to perform at the restaurant. Brown also allegedly threatened to take away the restaurant's permits.

He has been charged with two counts of harassment and two counts of extortion.

After the owner contacted the police, the State's Attorney Office and detectives set up an undercover operation. On Thursday, according to police, an undercover officer was posing as the restaurant's entertainment manager when Brown entered and demanded money. He was then placed under arrest.

Police spokeswoman Julie Parker said Brown's band played multiple shows at the restaurant under what the owner said was a "free, trial basis." After the performance, however, Brown demanded money.

"The business owner said 'That's not what we agreed to,'" Parker said. "No money was ever exchanged."

At the time of his arrest, the suspect and the undercover officer argued about what Brown should be paid. The officer agreed to pay Brown $550.

When Brown was arrested, he was on duty and using his county car.

The threats had been occurring since March 2012, according to police, however Parker said Brown did not receive money from the restaurant owner during that time.

Adam Ortiz, acting director of the Department of Environmental Resources said at press conference Friday that Brown started working with the department in 2007, and the agency is cooperating with police.

He also said this is the first time anything suspicious has come across his desk regarding the employee, but the department is looking into Brown's record.

"This is the one [incident] that has come to our attention, and now we're dealing with it in a forthright and very serious fashion," he said.

Brown has been placed on administrative leave.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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