Former New Orleans Traffic Court Accountant Indicted
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 01, 2013|
Vandale Thomas, age 40, a resident of Prairieville, Louisiana, was charged today by a federal grand jury in a 12-count Indictment alleging corruption which took place during Thomas’ tenure with New Orleans Traffic Court, announced U. S. Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite, Jr.
On November 24, 2008, Thomas and his accounting firm, Thomas & Thomas Accounting Services LLC, were hired by the city of New Orleans Traffic Court to provide accounting and bookkeeping services. Thomas was the chief financial officer for Traffic Court and for the time period alleged in the indictment. Thomas’ initial agreement with Traffic Court allowed him to bill at a rate of $75 an hour, and his Thomas' billings exceeded $75,000 within the first four months of his agreement.
On six additional occasions between November 24, 2008 and April 13, 2011, Thomas received written authorization from the city of New Orleans and Traffic Court to expand the amount that he could bill. In total, the city and Traffic Court authorized Thomas to submit invoices and receive compensation for accounting services in an amount not to exceed $627,000.00. However, subsequent audits by investigators and the FBI revealed that Thomas submitted 174 invoices and was issued 173 checks totaling $1,311,065.53. According to today’s Indictment, Thomas embezzled from and overbilled the city of New Orleans and its department, Traffic Court, more than $680,000 between 2009 and 2011.
Today’s indictment also charges Thomas with three separate counts of laundering illegal funds obtained from Traffic Court. Two counts allege that on September 14 and September 24, 2010, Thomas used illegally obtained money from Traffic Court to purchase casino chips in excess of $10,000 at a New Orleans casino. The third money laundering count alleges Thomas used illegally obtained money from Traffic Court to make a down payment on an $80,000 Bentley GT Coupe.
The structuring counts in today’s Indictment allege that Thomas used numerous bank branches in order to evade federal currency transaction reporting requirements. Specifically, Thomas went to multiple bank locations in New Orleans and Baton Rouge to structure cash withdrawals in order to evade the currency transaction reporting requirement that all transactions over $10,000 be reported by financial institutions to the Internal Revenue Service.
Counts one through three of the indictment charge Thomas with theft concerning programs receiving federal funds in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 666(a)(1)(A). The maximum penalty Thomas may receive if convicted of counts one through three is 10 years’ imprisonment per count. Counts four through six of the indictment charge Thomas with engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1957. The maximum penalty for each of these counts is 10 years’ imprisonment. Counts seven through 12 of the indictment charge Thomas with structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements in violation of Title 31, United States Code, Section 5324(a)(3). The maximum penalty for each of these counts is five years’ imprisonment.
“This indictment represents another example of our region’s coordinated efforts to root out public corruption,” stated U.S. Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite, Jr. “We will hold accountable anyone who allegedly defrauds our government.”
“We all suffer when our state and local municipalities are robbed by fraud,” stated IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge, Gabriel Grchan. “Today’s indictment of Vandale Thomas should send a clear message that we intend to stop public corruption in the city of New Orleans. It is the goal of IRS-Criminal Investigation to work with Department of Justice and other federal and state agencies to ensure that those engaged in illegal activities are brought to justice.”
“Today’s indictment is another example of the close relationship between the Office of Inspector General and our federal partners,” stated Ed Quatrevaux, Inspector General for the City of New Orleans. “The OIG will continue to pursue those who defraud the city of New Orleans.”
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite, Jr. reiterated that the indictment is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations Division, and the New Orleans Office of Inspector General. The prosecution of this case is being handled by Strike Force Chief, Assistant U. S. Attorney Brian M. Klebba.