Samuel E. Pope needed money fast. The landlord raised the rent on his Head to Toe hair salon in Southwest Washington, the bills were piling up, and he was on the verge of closing. “That’s when Harriette came in,” Pope recalled. “Basically, she said, ‘Well, maybe I can help you.’ ” With that simple line, Harriette Walters drew Pope into the biggest embezzlement scandal in the District government’s history. In May 1991, he agreed to take fraudulent property tax refund checks, created by Walters at the D.C. tax office where she worked, and to share the money with her, reports the Washington Post. He was among the first to sign onto the scam.
Based on interviews and court documents — including the first account from an insider — new details have emerged that show how Walters assembled and deployed her team of thieves, ordinary people from different walks of life. She sized them up over a period of years, proving herself a good judge of people’s vulnerabilities. Then, using friendship, family ties and trust, she reeled them in. The scheme raked in more than $48 million over 18 years. Walters, 52, and nine others have pleaded guilty, and one more person is awaiting trial. Few have publicly expressed remorse.