A 46-year-old woman linked to former council member Harry Thomas Jr.'s scheme to steal public funds pleaded guilty on Friday to failing to report income on her tax return in 2010, including a "fee" she obtained for surreptitiously redirecting more than $100,000 in grant funds to cover the costs of an inaugural ball in January 2009.
Danita C. Doleman, who lives in District, admitted in federal court that she failed to report $20,000 in additional income in calendar year 2009 from the Youth Technology Institute, or "Youth Tech," a nonprofit that she controlled.
Doleman, soft-spoken and wearing an orange dress, entered her plea in front of a handful of attorneys and just three persons in the courtroom gallery, a stark contrast to the packed pews of spectators who watched Thomas receive a 38-month prison term last week.
Before U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates, prosecutors shed additional light on how Ms. Doleman and her nonprofit were linked to the Thomas investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bridget Fitzpatrick said Ms. Doleman obtained a $110,000 grant from a public-private partnership — widely known to be the Children & Youth Trust Corp., a nonprofit designed to assist youth programs — under the guise it was designated for a "youth-centered event." But she sent $104,500 to the D.C. Young Democrats, under Thomas' direction, to cover the costs of an inauguration celebration at the John A. Wilson Building.
Thomas had told Doleman her nonprofit could retain some funds if they acted as a pass-through for the inaugural ball money, and his staff member drafted fraudulent paperwork to accomplish that goal, court papers said.
"Neither Ms. Doleman or Youth Tech played any role in planning or organizing (the ball)," Ms. Fitzpatrick told the court.
Court papers said Doleman did not attend the event or even know it had taken place.
Doleman, through her nonprofit, also retained $5,000 in "additional salary"and kicked back $5,000 to Thomas' for-profit company, HLT Swingaway, from a $10,000 grant it received from the trust for a sports camp in summer 2009 known as the "Sports Blitz," according to court papers.
Doleman received a total of $20,000 in personal income from Youth Tech in 2009, the papers said.
Her offense is punishable by up to three years in prison, but Judge Bates said the U.S. Attorney's Office may file a motion on Doleman's behalf ahead of sentencing if she holds up her agreement to cooperate with the prosecutors' ongoing investigation.
If federal prosecutors fail to help her out, "that's their fault, not mine, you understand that?" Judge Bates said.
"Yes, your honor," she replied.
Prosecutors asked for a status hearing "several months out" instead of a sentencing date. Judge Bates scheduled them to appear on Sept. 19.
Doleman's public defender, Michelle Peterson, declined to speak about the case after the hearing — at least for now.
"I don't think we're going to have any further comment at this point," she said outside the courtroom.
Earlier this week, she said her client and the nonprofit "were used by former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. and others who illegally used taxpayer's funds to enrich themselves."
Thomas resigned and pleaded guilty in January to stealing public funds and filing a false tax return after a lengthy investigation into how money intended for youth sports programs ended up in his pockets.
Federal prosecutors said Thomas also used the trust as a pass-through for funds to the Langston 21st Century Foundation and a third, unnamed entity.
Two principals for Langston, Marshall Banks and James Garvin, have pleaded guilty to concealing a felony for allowing Thomas to use their golf-affiliated nonprofit in Ward 5 as a catalyst for his theft. Both men await sentencing in federal court.
Meanwhile, voters in Ward 5 will cast ballots in a special election on Tuesday to replace their disgraced representative on the council.
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