FBI Searches Harry Thomas's Home

U.S. Attorney's Office investigating Ward 5 council member

Saturday, Dec 3, 2011  |  Updated 9:14 AM EDT
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News4's Jackie Bensen has the latest on the FBI and IRS raid of Councilman Harry Thomas Junior's home

Jackie Bensen

News4's Jackie Bensen has the latest on the FBI and IRS raid of Councilman Harry Thomas Junior's home

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The FBI searched the Northeast home of D.C. Council member Harry "Tommy" Thomas Jr. Friday in relation to an ongoing investigation.

Authorities made no arrests nor announcements about the raid.

The search of  the Ward 5 council member's house and garage began at about 8 a.m. Friday, and was still ongoing late Friday afternoon.

A current-model Chevy Tahoe SUV and a "very expensive" motorcycle were towed away from Thomas' home shortly before 1 p.m., reported News4's Tom Sherwood. Agents also carried out two bags and several boxes of collected items before leaving at 5:20 p.m.

Thomas was not at home when agents arrived, but he rushed back and met his lawyers, Sherwood reported. The small cul de sac in the 2400 block of 17th Street NE was blocked off with caution tape.

Thomas's attorneys Fred Cooke and Karl Racine said they are cooperating and don't expect criminal charges.

"From Day One, we've cooperated with the government's investigation of this matter," Racine said. "We'll continue to do that. At the conclusion of the matter, we sincerely believe that there'll be no finding of any criminal violations."

One of Thomas' attorneys, Seth Rosenthal, said Friday that the search was unexpected.

"Today's events come as a surprise given that we have been cooperating fully and in earnest with federal authorities in their investigation. We will continue to do so," Rosenthal wrote in an email.

Agents from the U.S. Treasury Department have also been seen at the home, Sherwood said. In addition, the IRS has confirmed that they are on official business at Thomas's home, but declined to provide more details.

In June, D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan released a report accusing Thomas of taking about $300,000 in government funds for personal use.

That money had been earmarked for charity groups and youth baseball in Ward 5. Those groups included the council member's own group, Team Thomas -- although the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs revoked corporate registration for Team Thomas in 2009, and the IRS never recognized it as a charity.

Instead, Thomas bought a $68,00 luxury SUV with some of the money and took expensive trips, including at least one to play golf at the upscale Pebble Beach, according to the report.

The attorney general filed a civil suit against Thomas, but it was settled when Thomas agreed to repay the $300,000.

The attorney general referred the issue to the U.S. Attorney's Office to determine if there were any criminal violations in Thomas's use of the money.

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

Thomas remains on the council and maintains his innocence even though he’s paying back the money. He is currently on a committee looking to pass an ethics bill for the D.C. Council.

Council Chairman Kwame Brown called a meeting Friday afternoon, but it was postponed until Monday because some members were sick or out of town. Council member Mary Cheh confirmed the meeting was about Thomas.

The Council could reprimand him or strip him of committee assignments. It could also begin censure proceedings, but that would require the Council to launch its own investigation, which Cheh said would not seem to be a prudent course of action.

"This changes the complexion of things," said Cheh, one of the three council members who had called on Thomas to resign, of Friday's raid. "I'm very, very concerned about how it reflects on the Council. It is a fairly grave situation for the institution."

Thomas was elected in 2006 and re-elected last year. His father, Harry Thomas Sr., held the Ward 5 seat for three terms.

This is just one of three investigations involving members of the D.C. Council right now. Mayor Gray is being investigated on allegations regarding misspent campaign money. Chairman Brown is being investigated for spending relating to his 2008 campaign.

Stay with News4 and NBCWashington.com for more information.

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