Montgomery County Police
Claude Allen, in a photo provided Friday by police.
updated 3/10/2006 10:05:15 PM ET 2006-03-11T03:05:15

A former domestic policy adviser to President Bush has been charged with theft for allegedly receiving phony refunds at department stores.

Claude Alexander Allen, 45, was arrested Thursday by Montgomery County police for allegedly returning more than $5,000 worth of merchandise he did not buy, according to county and federal authorities.

Allen was the No. 2 official in the Health and Human Services Department when Bush nominated him in April 2003 to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. Bush nominated him to the court again a year later, but Allen never received a Senate vote.

During his confirmation hearing, Allen was questioned about his use of the word "queer" when he was a press aide to Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., in 1984. Allen said he didn't intend it as a slur against gay people.

In early 2005, Bush hired Allen as a domestic policy adviser. He resigned abruptly on Feb. 9, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Calls to Allen's home in Gaithersburg, a Washington suburb, were not returned. The White House also did not return calls seeking comment.

Allen has been under investigation since at least January for the alleged thefts on 25 different occasions at Target and Hecht's stores, a police spokesman, Lt. Eric Burnett, said. Police reviewed his credit card records to track his purchase.

Police believe Allen would buy items, take them to his car, then return to the store with his receipt. He would select the same items, then take them to the store return desk and show the receipt from the first purchase. Using that method, he would receive credit for the second items on his credit cards, Burnett said.

Allen was allegedly seen Jan. 2 at a Target in Gaithersburg taking items off the shelf that he then took the return desk. He had a receipt for the merchandise, was given a refund and left.

The items he allegedly received fraudulent refunds for include clothing, a Bose theater system and stereo equipment. Some purchases were as little as $2.50.

Allen was released on his own recognizance by a Montgomery District Court judge.

Before joining the Bush administration, Allen was Virginia Health and Human Resources secretary.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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