Former Prince George’s Co. Council member Mel Franklin charged with theft, embezzlement and perjury

Mel Franklin served as District 9 Council member and At Large Council member in the Prince George's County, Maryland, legislature until his unexpected resignation on June 14, 2024. (Courtesy Prince George's County Council)

Former Prince George’s County Council member Jamel “Mel” Franklin has been charged with multiple counts of felony theft scheme, embezzlement and perjury after prosecutors say he used campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, including cosmetic procedures for himself and a friend.

Franklin abruptly stepped down from his at-large seat last week after 14 years on the council.

Prosecutors said that from 2020 through at least October 2023, Franklin embezzled more than $124,000 from his campaign committee, “Friends of Mel Franklin,” by transferring funds to his personal bank account. He then used the money to pay off debt and loans and to pay for rent, online subscriptions and cosmetic procedures for himself and a close friend, according to a news release from the Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor.

Franklin engaged in a similar scheme from 2021 through December 2023, prosecutors said, embezzling another $8,718 from his campaign account to third parties to pay for his personal expenses.

In that scheme, prosecutors said Franklin transferred money to a close friend and used the debit card associated with his campaign to pay for personal expenses, including hotel stays and cosmetic procedures.

Among the specific purchases were two personal stays at swanky National Harbor hotels, according to charging documents. On July 10, 2022, Franklin used $305 from his campaign committee account to stay at the Harbor’s Westin Hotel. Franklin checked in at 2:01 a.m. and checked out at 6:21 a.m., according to the charging documents.

On March 26, 2023, the documents say Franklin used campaign account funds to purchase a one-night stay in an executive suite at the Gaylord National hotel at a cost of more than $800.

The documents say Franklin also used campaign funds at a liquor store and to purchase an online subscription service, oil change and a deposit for an international trip. He’s accused of using thousands of the dollars to pay off his personal credit card, as well.

Instead of reporting these expenses, court filings say Franklin falsified information on reports filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections.

The former member on the entirely Democratic council represented Prince George’s County’s District 9 from 2010 to 2018, when he was then elected to an at-large seat.

“Our Office strives to hold individuals in positions of public trust accountable if they violate that trust and exploit the Maryland electoral process for personal financial gain,” State Prosecutor Charlton Howard III said.

Franklin is scheduled for an initial court appearance on July 8.

This is not Franklin’s first time facing criminal charges. In 2016, the then-council member was charged with driving under the influence after crashing his county vehicle into another car and briefly leaving the scene on foot.

WTOP has reached out to Franklin for comment.

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Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

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