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Samuel Pierce, President Reagan's first Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, won't be charged after a five-year probe of housing corruption scandals in the 1980s -- largely because government prosecutors have concluded that he is old and ill and didn't profit from alleged cronyism in the department. But Independent Counsel Arlin Adams said today that Pierce, 72, nicknamed "Silent Sam" for keeping a low profile during his government tenure, has admitted he created an environment that permitted aides to steer federal aid illegally to friends and political allies. "I realize that my own conduct contributed to an environment in which these events could occur," Pierce wrote in a statement Adams released today. The probe has so far produced 16 convictions and $2 million in fines.