Jury finds former King County district commissioner guilty of stealing taxpayer money

Allan “Benny” Thomas has previously denied that he used more than $450,000 in taxes collected by the public district.

ENUMCLAW, Wash — A former elected commissioner of King County Drainage District 5 has been found guilty of stealing county tax dollars.

Allan “Benny” Thomas and his wife JoAnn face 15 federal charges including conspiracy and money laundering.

Allan “Benny” Thomas, who previously denied using more than $450,000 in public tax proceeds to pay the costs of his Enumclaw dairy farm, was found guilty of 10 of the 15 counts crimes, including conspiracy, four counts each and mail fraud and one aggravated identity theft.

His wife, JoAnn, was found guilty of all 15 counts, including a second count of aggravated identity theft and four counts of money laundering.

Thomas is a longtime elected commissioner for King County Drainage District 5 near Enumclaw and is responsible for maintaining the nearly 20 miles of open trench that provides drainage for farmland outside the city.

Records show that various public authorities believe Thomas may have embezzled the $70,000 to $80,000 a year in taxes the drainage district collects from landowners to clean exposed trenches and keep stormwater out. flow through. But no one acted beyond a vague warning.

In 2019, KING 5 Investigators reported on filings showing that Thomas and his wife had started a fictitious company that he claimed was a contractor that was invoicing for mining work. trench. In fact, the company’s address is the home of Thomas’s mother-in-law.

Records show that, after Thomas was questioned about billing irregularities, he set up a scheme to send fake invoices from a friend’s company. That company continued to bill the county until KING 5 aired the investigation in 2019.

A state audit following the KING 5 story found that the couple transferred more than $468,000 in tax proceeds over eight years to pay for operations on their private dairy farm. The audit found that Thomas’ spent money on hay, farm equipment and services.

Thomas and his wife pleaded “not guilty.” Their trial was repeatedly delayed because of the pandemic shutdown and the couple and their defense lawyer fell ill.

Earlier this week, Thomas’ testified. Allan Thomas said school district records seized by the FBI do not accurately reflect how tax dollars collected since 2012 are spent. Allan Thomas said the record is not clear and that “…for the farmer (bookkeeping) level, we do pretty well. For the professional level, not so good.

The defense argued that the City of Enumclaw raised suspicions that Thomas and his wife, JoAnn, were stealing tax dollars because the city wanted to buy out Thomas’s 155-acre dairy farm for residential development. reside.

JoAnn Thomas also testified that government evidence does not accurately reflect where the $70,000-80,000 the drainage district collects each year from tax-paying landowners.

“I am a really lousy accountant,” she told the jury.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Friedman and Justin Arnold told jurors that Thomas’s created a shell contracting company that claimed it was cleaning and maintaining approximately 20 miles of storm drain in the Drainage District. country 5. That company billed the King County government for alleged employment, with commissioner Thomas signing for the job.

The federal government says Thomas’s actually collected the payments to the fictitious company and deposited it in their personal bank accounts to pay the costs of their dairy farm.

The couple claimed their son, Alex Thomas, legally owned and operated the contract company and that he was paid to clear the ditch. But Alex Thomas testified last week that he only cleaned the ditch once or twice in 2012 and hasn’t had any involvement with the company since.


https://www.king5.com/article/news/investigations/former-king-county-drainage-district-commissioner-wife-guilty/281-c7faf7c2-e50e-4024-bbe6-6068bb754d21 Jury finds former King County district commissioner guilty of stealing taxpayer money

Edmund DeMarche

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