Orleans Parish School Board Member Ira Thomas Charged with Conspiracy to Commit Federal Bribery and Honest Services Wire Fraud
U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite and Michael Anderson, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (“FBI”), New Orleans Field Division, announced that IRA THOMAS, 56, of New Orleans, and a member of the Orleans Parish School Board (“OPSB”), was charged today in a one-count bill of information charging him with conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud.
According to the Bill of Information, beginning in September 2013 and continuing until January 2015,THOMAS and several others participated in a conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud.
The Bill of Information alleges that THOMAS, in his role as an Orleans Parish School Board Member, engaged in a scheme to defraud Orleans Parish and its citizens of his honest services through bribery and a kickback scheme. It is further alleged that 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.
“Today’s announcement should send a message to those public officials who are engaging in corruption, or are even contemplating doing so,” stated U.S. Attorney Polite. “Everyone in this community—law enforcement, average residents, your co-workers, even those who you believe are trusted co-conspirators—will eventually work together to turn a spotlight on your criminality.”
“Sadly, this public corruption conspiracy strikes at the heart of two of the most important issues currently facing New Orleanians, education, and indirectly, public safety,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Anderson. “While any public corruption is intolerable, the FBI will remain particularly vigilant when these types of social issues are impacted.”
According to the Bill of Information, 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.
If convicted of conspiring with others to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud, THOMAS faces statutory penalties of up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
The Bill of Information also contains Notice of Forfeiture which puts the defendant on notice that the Government intends on forfeiting any and all property and profits concerned with and/or derived from any illegal activity referenced in the Bill of Information.
U.S. Attorney Polite reiterated that today’s Bill of Information describes allegations and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
U.S. Attorney Polite praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in investigating this matter. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Toomey is in charge of the prosecution.