- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The manager of a D.C. golf course in Ward 5 admitted on Wednesday that he allowed former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. to use his nonprofit as a conduit for a scheme that bilked more than $300,000 from the District.

James Garvin, a 55-year-old Florida native with a storied career in golf management, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to concealing a felony and could face up to three years in prison.

His plea came five days after his associate at the Langston 21st Century Foundation, Marshall D. Banks, pleaded guilty to the same offense.

Langston 21 is one of three organizations that served as a pass-through for funds Thomas directed from the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., according to U.S. Attorney Ron Machen.

Garvin’s plea appears to close one component of Mr. Machen’s investigation into Thomas‘ theft of public funds intended for youth programs from 2007 to 2009. Authorities have declined to name the other two entities while they investigate.

Mr. Machen has indicated his office is investigating organizations and individuals who helped the former city lawmaker embezzle funds for trips, vehicles, clothing and other personal expenses. Thomas, who pleaded guilty Jan. 6 to theft and filing false tax returns, resigned from his Ward 5 council seat and faces more than three years in prison when he is sentenced May 3.

Court papers say Langston 21 principals Garvin and Banks knew Thomas intended to siphon funds for his own benefit from a $392,000 grant to their nonprofit.

A member of Thomas‘ staff emailed budget paperwork to Garvin in January 2008 that made it clear the grant agreement was not legitimate, according to charging documents.

“This occurred even before the first distribution of grants funds, your honor,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Haray told Judge John D. Bates on Wednesday.

Court papers say Garvin and Banks forwarded a total of $306,000 to Thomas‘ nonprofit, Team Thomas, and his for-profit company, HLT Development, from the grant funds.

Langston’s ties to Thomas‘ scheme were made public in a lawsuit filed by D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan in June. Mr. Nathan’s office reached a settlement with Garvin and Banks for $86,000, the amount of earmarked funds retained by their foundation.

Garvin and Banks share an attorney, Vandy Jamison, and their plea deals were contingent on both of them pleading guilty. They will return to court for a status hearing on May 25 prior to sentencing.

Mr. Jamison declined to comment on the particulars of Garvin’s case, but noted his client has been well-regarded in the golf community throughout his career.

A member of the African American Golfers Hall of Fame, Garvin has been the subject of features in high-profile media, such as the Golf Channel and ESPN for his charitable work at the historic Langston Golf Course in Northeast.

“He’s someone who’s made tremendous personal strides in his life,” Mr. Jamison said.

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