Thomas investigation ongoing

Delay in hearing shows probe into nonprofit scheme continues

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Federal prosecutors on Thursday signaled the investigation into former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr.’s scheme to bilk $350,000 in city funds is alive and well, even if the ousted lawmaker is already serving time at a prison in Alabama.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Haray asked a U.S. District Court judge for a three-month extension before they ask Danita C. Doleman to return to court after pleading guilty in May 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.

She admitted she failed to report $20,000 in additional income in calendar year 2009 from the Youth Technology Institute, or “Youth Tech,” a nonprofit and one of three organizations tied to Thomas‘ theft from youth sports programs to pay for an SUV, a motorcycle and lavish lifestyle, according to prosecutors.

Although she awaits sentencing, Mr. Haray asked Judge John D. Bates for another status hearing on Jan. 10 to handle “related ongoing matters that we think would be appropriate to wait for.”

Much like the probe into Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 campaign, the U.S. Attorney’s Office led by Ronald C. Machen Jr. is holding off on cases while they handle cases against fellow defendants that are part of the same investigation.

In Doleman’s case, her nonprofit served as a pass-through for funds Thomas obtained from the D.C. Children and Youth Trust Corp., a private-public partnership designed to assist youth programs in the District.

Court papers say Doleman’s organization obtained a $110,000 grant from the trust 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. Prosecutors 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.

While her offense is punishable by up to three years in prison, her exposure to prison time can be diminished by cooperating with prosecutors as part of her plea deal.

Doleman sat quietly with her public defender, Michelle M. Peterson, during a hearing that lasted mere minutes, although they conferred with Mr. Haray before and after the appearance before Judge Bates. So far, she is in compliance with the conditions of her release pending sentencing.

“You are to be commended for that,” Judge Bates told her.

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. He is serving a 38-month prison term.

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