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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 March 2006, 19:05 GMT
Bush adviser charged with thefts
President George W Bush with former adviser Claude Allen
Claude Allen was considered a rising Republican star
US President George W Bush's former political adviser has been charged with stealing more than $5,000 (2,900) from department stores.

The president said he was "shocked" and "sad" on hearing the news about Claude Allen, who resigned abruptly as his domestic policy adviser last month.

Mr Allen, 45, has denied at least 25 thefts from Target and Hecht's stores.

The scam allegedly involved Mr Allen claiming refunds for merchandise that he did not buy.

Mr Allen was arrested on Thursday by police in Montgomery County, Maryland, following an investigation into an alleged incident at the Target store in Gaithersburg, Maryland on 2 January.

Appeals court nominee

A Target employee said he saw Mr Allen put items in an empty Target bag, which he then took to the refund desk with a receipt, and claimed money back, Reuters said, citing a police statement.

He was credited more than $5,000 to his credit card through similar transactions at other shops, police said.

Mr Allen reported the 2 January incident to White House staff the next day, saying it was a misunderstanding related to his credit cards, a White House spokesman said.

"He assured them that he had done nothing wrong and the matter would be cleared up," the spokesman said.

Mr Allen, a lawyer born in Philadelphia, was promoted to White House domestic policy adviser in early 2005, having been the No 2 official at the health and human services department.

Mr Bush had nominated him in 2003 for a seat on the Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia, but withdrew him because of political opposition.

'Misunderstanding'

"When I heard the story last night, I was shocked, and my first reaction was one of disappointment, deep disappointment - if it's true - that we were not fully informed," Mr Bush said on Saturday.

"Shortly thereafter, I felt really sad for the Allen family."

"If the allegations are true, something went wrong in Claude Allen's life, and that is really sad."

Mr Allen resigned suddenly on 9 February, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Mallon Snyder, a lawyer for Mr Allen, called the arrest and charges "a misunderstanding", and said he wanted to meet Target investigators to clear things up.


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