A financial officer who worked 24 years for the Agency for International Development was facing arraignment Wednesday on charges he stole $1.2 million from the government by issuing checks to a fictitious person.

William J. Burns, 48, of Burtons-ville, Md., was taken into custody at his office Tuesday after being charged in a complaint with stealing AID money, making false claims against the government and racketeering, an AID statement said. Burns allegedly embezzled the money over a six-year period.Herbert Beckington, AID's inspector general, said Burns' "unexplained affluence" first caught the attention of security investigators performing a routine security evaluation last year.

Burns earned $35,108 annually, but he lived in a neighborhood of $500,000 estates, and he was able to enjoy "expensive cars, travel, exquisite home furnishings and other embellishments normally beyond the reach of" civil servants of his rank, the statement said.

An investigation by AID, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service determined that Burns allegedly ran a scheme that involved the issuing of fictitious U.S. government checks to a fictitious person.