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FBI raids D.C. Council member Thomas’ home

- The Washington Times - Friday, December 2, 2011

FBI and IRS agents on Friday raided the Northeast home of D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr., a significant uptick in the pace of a criminal investigation into whether the council member used public funds for personal gain.

Authorities arrived about 8 a.m. and cordoned off a wide area around Mr. Thomas's 17th Street home. Agents in windbreakers and vests with FBI and IRS markings could be seen going into and out of the house for most of the day.

The most obvious things that were seized was a red motorcycle with yellow detailing and a Chevrolet Tahoe that were loaded on a tow truck from the driveway of Mr. Thomas's house about 11:30 a.m.

Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District, declined to comment on the raid — not even to confirm that it was Mr. Thomas's house that was being raided.

"Today's law enforcement action is in conjunction with an ongoing investigation," he said. "Because the investigation is continuing, there will be no comment at this time."

FBI spokeswoman Jacqueline Maguire would only confirm that "law enforcement action was taken" Friday morning at Mr. Thomas's home.

Mr. Thomas's lawyer, Fred Cooke, was seen at the house throughout the day and at about 5 p.m. emerged with another lawyer, who read a brief statement on Mr. Thomas's behalf.

"We certainly understand the interest of the public and respect that interest," lawyer Karl Racine said. "From day one, we've cooperated with the government's investigation of this matter and we'll continue to do that. At the conclusion of the matter, we sincerely believe that there will be no finding of any criminal violation."

Law-enforcement sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the raid said they did not expect to make any arrests or to make public any papers associated with the search. Mr. Thomas's city hall office building was not expected to be searched on Friday.

Mr. Thomas, Ward 5 Democrat, agreed to repay $300,000 to the District after the city's attorney general filed a $1 million lawsuit against him this year for funding lavish trips and a luxury vehicle with public funds earmarked for youth baseball.

Mr. Thomas said after the settlement was announced that he entered into it in the "best interest of the city" and denied "purposeful misuse" of public funds.

An investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office is ongoing.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Friday he hoped for a quick resolution to the probe.

"I continue to support the investigation into these allegations so that justice can run its course," he said. "For the sake of the District, I hope the investigation is concluded quickly."

D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh, who has already called on Mr. Thomas to resign, noted that the raid marks a ratcheting up of the probe. She said there is not a high standard for the evidence required to get a search warrant, but "it is a standard."

"Obviously, all of us are very sad and disturbed by this turn of events," she said. "It certainly marks a new and ominous phase in this investigation."

The council Friday afternoon indicated it would meet at 4 p.m. to discuss a "personnel" matter in private, but council Chairman Kwame R. Brown postponed the meeting until Monday.

Mr. Thomas is serving his second term representing Ward 5. His late father, Harry Thomas Sr., represented the ward for three terms. The council member had been under scrutiny largely over Team Thomas, a nonprofit he co-founded in 2000. The organization purportedly ran children's sports programs until it was dissolved last December.

The attorney general's office said more than $300,000 in grant funds went to Langston 21st Century Foundation, a purported youth sports and education nonprofit, which is suspected of secretly giving most of the funds to Mr. Thomas through his nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

Elmer Winters, who lives nearby to Mr. Thomas and was returning from the store Friday morning when he saw the activity, was taken aback at the law-enforcement presence.

"It looks like a murder crime scene," he said. Told of the raid, he said Mr. Thomas was entitled to due process but that if investigators find any criminal wrongdoing against the council member, "he should be removed."

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