Dakota Official Pleads Guilty In HUD Probe

INDEPENDENT counsel Arlin Adams's investigation of corruption at the Reagan-era Department of Housing and Urban Development has snared a North Dakota state official.

Robert Olsen, a top staff member of North Dakota's Housing Finance Agency, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of bribery and one count of conspiracy in US District Court. In his plea bargain with prosecutors, Mr. Olsen admitted to receiving more than $50,000 from a group of developers to steer federal housing funds to their projects. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

This is the sixth guilty plea that Mr. Adams has won during his three-year investigation. But the two cases that have gone to trial have not been big victories for the independent counsel: In January, federal juries in Washington acquitted developer Victor Cruse of all charges and, in a separate case, convicted former HUD official Lance Wilson and two developers on only the most minor charges against them.

The likely next targets of the independent counsel probe are the developers implicated by Olsen's plea-bargain. One of them - Jerry Meide of North Dakota - already is cooperating with prosecutors. The others - J. Michael Queenan and Ronny Mahon, both former employees of HUD's Denver office - probably will come under heavy pressure from prosecutors to follow suit. Another associate of Messrs. Queenan and Mahon, Denver developer Philip Winn, pleaded guilty in February to influence-peddling.

The next trials in the HUD case are scheduled for late June, when Deborah Gore Dean and Thomas Demery - both one-time top aides to former HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce - will face a raft of corruption charges in US District Court in Washington.

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