By Gregory B. Hladky
5:01 PM EDT, July 24, 2013
As if plunging casino revenues weren't enough of a problem for Connecticut's first and biggest tribal casino, former Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council Chairman Michael Thomas has been found guilty of embezzling more than $100,000 in tribal funds.
Here's the full press release from the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut:
Deirdre M. Daly, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, Kimberly K. Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Peter Y. Kim, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Inspector General, Eastern Region, today announced that a federal jury in New Haven has found MICHAEL THOMAS, 45, the former Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, guilty of embezzling from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. The trial before United States District Judge Janet Bond Arterton began on July 22 and the jury returned its verdict after deliberating for less than two hours.
“Mr. Thomas abused his position as Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Trial Nation by charging over $100,000 in unauthorized personal expenses to the Nation,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Daly. “These fraudulent expenses continued even after they were discovered and he was told to stop. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to prosecuting corrupt officials at all levels of government – federal, state, local and tribal. I thank the FBI and the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General for their work in uncovering this misuse of federal funds.”
“Mr. Thomas’ systematic theft of tribal and federal monies to support a lifestyle of excess is egregious,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Mertz. “Today’s verdict underscores the importance of investigating and prosecuting the blatant misappropriation of federal dollars, especially during these austere fiscal times.”
“This case is a reflection of the Inspector General’s continued involvement in Indian Country and our dedication to insure the integrity of all U.S. Department of the Interior funded programs,” stated DOI-OIG Special Agent in Charge Kim.
According to the evidence at trial, between October 2007 and April 2009, THOMAS used an American Express card that was issued to him by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (“MPTN”) to be used for official MPTN government purposes to make more than $100,000 in unauthorized personal expenses. THOMAS used the card to pay for monthly satellite television service for his home, to pay for satellite radio service for his vehicle, to purchase personal computers, to pay for mobile phone service for other individuals, and to pay for a car service to transport his mother to kidney dialysis treatments. THOMAS knew that the expenses were personal, and that his use of the credit card was in violation of a Tribal Council Resolution.
The jury found THOMAS guilty of one count of theft from an Indian tribal organization and two counts of theft from an Indian tribal government receiving federal funds.
Judge Arterton has scheduled sentencing for October 22, 2013, at which time THOMAS faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 25 years and a fine of up to $750,000. THOMAS also faces forfeiture of $102,393.34 and two personal computers.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and United States Department of Interior – Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher Mattei and Douglas Morabito.
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