FBI Targets Shoppers Consultant

The Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the headquarters of Shoppers Food & Pharmacy as part of an investigation into the activities of one of the retailers' consultants, a prominent Maryland politician. A spokeswoman for Supervalu, Shoppers' Minneapolis-based parent company, said the retailer was cooperating fully with the FBI, and declined to provide additional details. The spokeswoman,

LANHAM, Md. — The Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the headquarters of Shoppers Food & Pharmacy here as part of an investigation into the activities of one of the retailers' consultants, a prominent Maryland politician.

A spokeswoman for Supervalu, Shoppers' Minneapolis-based parent company, said the retailer was “cooperating fully with the FBI,” and declined to provide additional details. The spokeswoman, Haley Meyer, confirmed to SN that the investigation was related to Ulysses Currie, a longtime state senator and chairman of the state's influential budget and taxation committee. Currie served Shoppers as “an outside consultant,” Meyer said.

FBI officials on May 29 entered Shoppers' headquarters and reportedly left with file folders and boxes. Officers on the same day conducted a search at Currie's home. Federal prosecutors have since requested Maryland's Legislative Services department to provide “all documents relating to the office” of Currie, reports said last week.

Meyer declined to comment on the length or nature of Currie's consulting work for the chain, describing him as “a service provider.” Reports in the Washington Post newspaper last week indicated that Currie did not report having received any income from his work with Shoppers, nor had he informed the state Ethics Commission of his employment with Shoppers, both of which would violate state rules.

However, it was unclear last week whether those events necessarily triggered the federal investigation. Officials from the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice declined to confirm even the existence of an investigation through their public affairs office. Calls to Currie's attorney last week were not returned.

A source with knowledge of the investigation last week said federal investigators are likely looking into whether Currie had “peddled influence” in his position as a lawmaker while working as an undisclosed agent of Shoppers. Retailers often employ consultants to help them address political issues such as taxes or health care, sources said.

Sources said the investigation may go on for several months and may or may not result in charges against Currie or other parties.

Newspaper reports last week noted Currie in 2005 had voted in favor of a bill allowing Shoppers to transfer a liquor license from a store in Takoma Park, Md., to another location in College Park, despite strong opposition from the College Park community and without Currie filing forms disclosing he had any conflicts of interest. Currie also reportedly attended meetings in 2006 during which Shoppers officials discussed a plan to develop on land in West Hyattsville, Md., belonging to the Washington Metro subway.

It was unclear whether Currie was employed by Shoppers during either of those events.

SN's latest Top 25 Worldwide Retailers list is out. See the details at supermarketnews.com [4]