How Much Does HTJ Really Owe D.C.?
The District's Office of Attorney General and disgraced Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. are at odds over how big his final bill should be for ripping off city taxpayers.
Thomas, you may recall, settled a civil lawsuit with the OAG last summer by agreeing to pay back $300,000 in ill-gotten funds. And at the beginning of this year, Thomas pleaded guilty to federal charges for stealing $353,500 in city funds. Thomas has also had difficulty sticking to a $50,000-every-six-months repayment plan he agreed to with the District.
New court records filed late Friday along with the OAG's "Declaration of Victim Losses," which LL got through a Freedom of Information Act, show that the city and Thomas are about $100,000 apart on how much restitution the city is entitled to.
In the victim loss form, the city makes the case that Thomas ought to repay $100,000 from the Public Fund for Drug Prevention and Children at Risk he steered towards paying for the 51st State Inaugural Ball. Thomas organized the party at the Wilson Building to celebrate President Barack Obama's inauguration. The fund raises money through a voluntary check-off box on District income tax forms.
Thomas had the drug prevention money moved from the Department of Parks and Recreation to the Children & Youth Investment Trust Corporation, according to court records filed when he pleaded guilty. Thomas then tried to get the money transferred to the D.C. Young Democrats to pay for the ball. When the CYITC had heartburn over giving the money to a political organization, Thomas had the money transferred to a non-profit named "ORGANIZATION #3" in court records, which LL has previously identified as the Youth Technology Institute. Of that money, $7,500 went to directly to Thomas.
The city says the ball (and the $100,000) served Thomas' "political purposes." Combined with the other money Thomas stole, the city says his total bill should be $446,000, minus the $70,000 that's already been repaid, which brings the current total to $376,000. (Why didn't D.C. put that $100,000 for the inaugural ball in the settlement with Thomas last year? Because officials didn't realize the ball was paid for through the CYITC until after a federal investigation wrapped up.)
The U.S. Probation Office, an agency that recommends sentencing and fine guidelines, agrees with the District.
But Thomas, in a court filing, says both the city and the Probation Office are wrong. Thomas says his plea deal has him pleading guilty to stealing $353,500, not $446,000, so that's how much he should repay. (Minus the $70,000 that's already been paid, the total would be $283,500.) And the U.S. Attorney's Office, in its own court filing, says it is not seeking any amount "not agreed to by the parties in the plea agreement."
Thomas also says in the filing that he did not know the money from the ball was coming directly from the drug prevention fund. He argues that he should only be on the hook for the $7,500 he personally received, which the filing says wasn't used for Thomas' own benefit, but was a reimbursement for what he'd already spent on the ball. Thomas, his filing says, "did not know that his actions would cause pecuniary harm beyond the improper $7,500 reimbursement he received."
Judge John Bates will settle the issue on Thursday. Whatever his decision, it'll likely be a long time before the city is made whole by Thomas, who is currently unemployed and almost certainly headed to prison. In his court filing, Thomas also says says the unpaid taxes he owes on all that stolen city money "could be in excess of $100,000."
Photo by Darrow Montgomery