D.C. AG goes after councilmember

Jessica M. Karmasek Jun. 7, 2011, 11:15am


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - District of Columbia Attorney General Irvin Nathan announced Monday the filing of a civil enforcement action by the District against D.C. councilmember Harry L. Thomas Jr.

The 27-page complaint seeks to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars that the District claims were "unlawfully diverted" from D.C. council-earmarked grants and from charitable donations that were allegedly used by Thomas for his personal or political benefit -- including the purchase of a luxury SUV, golfing vacations and the publication of a brochure extolling his public service.

According to the Attorney General's Office, the action was filed Monday in District of Columbia Superior Court, following an extensive investigation by Nathan's office.

"We cannot tolerate the diversion of any of our scarce District resources, particularly by those who would use their positions of trust and influence to obtain these funds for personal gain," Nathan said in a statement.

The attorney general added that he "is proud of the hard and diligent work of our OAG attorneys whose tenacious investigative efforts meticulously unearthed the evidence which we will rely on at trial."

The attorney general's complaint alleges that, using the resources of his council office, Thomas obtained largely for his personal use more than $300,000 that had been ear-marked for "youth baseball programs" and solicited -- without a District charitable solicitation license and without a 501(c)(3) organization -- more than $80,000 from private donors for alleged charitable purposes that were never established.

Nathan's office said the District funds were provided by council legislation in 2007 to the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, which at Thomas' direction, passed them to the Langston 21st Century Foundation, which in turn, at Thomas' direction, secretly paid most of the money to Thomas through his for-profit and non-profit corporations.

Much of the money was then spent for the personal benefit of Thomas, the attorney general's complaint alleges, including the use of more than $58,000 to purchase an Audi Quattro Premium SUV, which is titled in Thomas' name.

The Attorney General's Office also alleges that Thomas knowingly made or caused to be made false statements, conspired with others to commit fraud, violated the District's charitable solicitations law and regulations, and was unjustly enriched.

The complaint seeks a monetary judgment for the District against Thomas for more than $1 million, which includes treble damages for the $316,000 taken from the earmark by Thomas' corporations, plus civil penalties, attorneys' fees and costs and an injunction against future charitable solicitations by Thomas.

On Monday, Nathan also announced a settlement of $86,000 with Langston 21 and its principals, James Garvin and Marshall Banks. This amount reflects the money from the earmark retained by Langston 21. Under the agreement, the final $30,000 payment due from these parties in December 2012 may be reduced if Langston can prove that any of those funds were actually spent on youth sports programs.

In the settlement agreement, Garvin and Banks have promised to cooperate in the District's case against Thomas, the attorney general explained.

Nathan's office said it also has referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to consider whether to pursue a criminal case in connection with the case.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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