Former Orleans Parish School Board Member Ira Thomas Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Federal Bribery and Honest Services Wire Fraud
U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite announced that IRA THOMAS, 56, of New Orleans and former member of the Orleans Parish School Board (“OPSB”), pled guilty today to charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud.
THOMAS admitted that beginning in September 2013 and continuing until January 2015, he and others participated in a conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud. THOMAS admitted that, in his role as an Orleans Parish School Board Member, he engaged in a scheme to defraud Orleans Parish and its citizens of his honest services through bribery and a kickback scheme, whereby THOMAS used his public office and official capacity to provide favorable treatment, including attempting to facilitate the awarding of a contract, that was designed to benefit the business and financial interest of an individual who provided him with a bribe and kickback in the form of cash payment disguised as a campaign contribution.
According to court documents, in September 2013 a cooperating witness (“CW”) was approached by an OPSB employee, who offered the CW a janitorial services contract that would soon be up for bid by the OPSB in exchange for a monetary payoff. During the fall of 2013, the CW, THOMAS, the OPSB employee, and at times another private citizen, met to discuss this contract. These conversations were recorded by the CW with the assistance of the FBI. Ultimately, it was decided that the CW would pay $5,000 to THOMAS in the form of a “campaign contribution” in exchange for THOMAS’ and the OPSB employee’s assistance regarding the janitorial services contract. In December 2013, the CW delivered $5,000 in cash to the private citizen acting as a conduit for THOMAS, which was video recorded. This money was then delivered to THOMAS. During the fall of 2014, THOMAS and the OPSB employee discussed over recorded telephone conversations how to alter the bid process so that the CW would be given an improper advantage in bidding for the janitorial services contract, which was valued over $5,000.
THOMAS faces statutory penalties of up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan set sentencing on August 12, 2015.
U.S. Attorney Polite praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in investigating this matter and thanked the Metropolitan Crime Commission for their assistance. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Toomey is in charge of the prosecution.