Former New Orleans Traffic Court Chief Financial Officer Sentenced to Federal Prison
U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite announced that VANDALE THOMAS, age 41, a resident of Prairieville, was sentenced today after being convicted by a federal jury.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval, Jr. sentenced THOMAS to thirty-six months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release to be served upon his release from prison. THOMAS was also ordered to make restitution in the amount of $684,065.53 to the City of New Orleans.
According to court records, after a week-long jury trial in October 2014, the former Chief Financial Officer at New Orleans Traffic Court (“Traffic Court”) was convicted on all 11 counts of theft, money laundering, and structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements. THOMAS was found guilty of three counts of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds resulting from his employment at Traffic Court. Evidence presented at trial established that on November 24, 2008, THOMAS and his accounting firm, Thomas & Thomas Accounting Services, LLC, were hired by Traffic Court to provide accounting and bookkeeping services. THOMAS’s initial agreement with Traffic Court allowed him to bill at a rate of $75.00 an hour and his contract was not to exceed $75,000 for a twelve month period. THOMAS’s billings exceeded $75,000 within the first few 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. However, subsequent audits by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office and the Office of the Inspector General for the City of New Orleans, and an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed that THOMAS submitted 174 invoices and was issued 173 checks totaling $1,311,065.53.
THOMAS was also found guilty of three counts of laundering illegal funds obtained from Traffic Court. The jury found 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 and THOMAS used illegally obtained money from Traffic Court to make a down payment on an $80,000 Bentley GT Coupe.
Additionally, THOMAS was found guilty of five counts of structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements. According to the evidence and testimony presented during the trial, 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.
“Mr. Thomas has been brought to justice for defrauding our local courts and the City of New Orleans,” stated U.S. Attorney Polite. “Corruption – wherever it is found in Southeast Louisiana – will not be tolerated.”
“The residents of New Orleans and the surrounding areas are fed up with seeing individuals like Thomas steal public funds to support their personal lifestyles of extravagance,” stated Jerome R. McDuffie, Special Agent in Charge, IRS – Criminal Investigations. “The court echoed that sentiment today with the sentence they imposed on Thomas for his actions against the citizens of this great city. IRS-CI will continue to aggressively pursue individuals who engage in the theft of public funds, and will seek to have them prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
“Vandale Thomas’ defrauding of the New Orleans Traffic Court was first identified by the OIG as it conducted an evaluation of the Court in 2011,” stated New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux. OIG investigators continued to work with our federal partners to bring Mr. Thomas to justice and secure restitution for the City.”
U.S. Attorney Polite praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations Division, and the New Orleans Office of Inspector General in investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorneys Brian M. Klebba, Matthew Payne, Marquest Meeks, and Andre Lagarde were in charge of the prosecution.