WASHINGTON (AP) _ An Agency for International Development financial officer whose lavish lifestyle attracted the attention of investigators was arrested Tuesday and charged with stealing $1.2 million from the government.

William J. Burns, 48, of Burtonsville, Md., was taken into custody at his office after he was 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.

Burns, who worked at AID for 24 years and rose to supervisory financial management specialist, is to be arraigned Wednesday in federal court.

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 his lifestyle included ''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 named ''Victor Kauffman,'' whose only known address was a Post Office box.

The money deposited in Kauffman's account was later transferred to Burns' account at another bank, the AID statement said.

Gene Richardson, the assistant inspector general for investigations at AID, said ''weak internal controls allowed these taxpayers' dollars to be diverted in a sophisticated yet simple manner that avoided detection year after year.''