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Former Bush adviser in talks to avoid theft trial

Former White House adviser Claude Allen, who was caught in early January allegedly making fraudulent returns worth at least $5,000 at Target and other stores, is negotiating to make a deal with prosecutors to avoid a trial.
File photo of US President Bush with political adviser Rove and assistant to the president for domestic policy Allen in Washington
Former White House adviser Claude Allen is accused of stealing items worth as little as $2.50 from Target and other stores, even though he made $161,000 per year.Shaun Heasley / Reuters file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Former White House adviser Claude Allen is in negotiations with prosecutors to avoid trial on charges stemming from phony refunds he allegedly tried to claim at retail stores, according to his attorney.

Allen was to go on trial Friday in Montgomery County District Court, just outside Washington, on theft and theft scheme charges for allegedly trying to make fraudulent returns worth at least $5,000 at Target and other stores.

But Montgomery County prosecutors and Allen's attorneys have agreed to postpone the trial while they discuss a "disposition," according to Allen lawyer Gregory Craig. He would not say what that would be.

Reading from a court filing made earlier this week, Craig said he hoped the case "will be resolved without the necessity of a trial."

Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas Gansler would not comment.

Arrested at Target
Allen, 45, was one of President Bush's top domestic policy advisers in a $161,000-a-year job until he resigned in February, a month after he was arrested at a Target store in Gaithersburg on Jan. 2.

He cited personal reasons at the time and had reportedly told the White House that the arrest was the result of a mix-up with his credit cards. White House officials later said they were unaware of the extent of Allen's legal problems, and Bush said it would be "deeply disappointing" if Allen had misled them.

Allen also served as Virginia's secretary of health and human resources as part of former Gov. Jim Gilmore's Cabinet from 1998 until March 2001.

According to police, Allen would buy items, take them to his car, then return to the store and choose identical items from the shelves. Using the receipt from his first purchase, he would then return the second items and receive a refund.

Charges carry possible 15-year sentences
He used the scheme at least 25 times, on purchases ranging from a $525 Bose theater system to items that cost just $2.50. He was videotaped by store surveillance cameras several times, and according to charging documents, admitted to making the false returns when confronted by a Target investigator on Jan. 2.

Police initially charged him with a misdemeanor but later brought the more serious charges of theft and theft scheme over $500 in the other incidents. Each charge carries a possible prison sentence of 15 years.