Local judge charged with fraud
HOUSTON - A Harris County judge has been indicted on allegations of wire fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick and Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI - Houston Division.
Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas, 44, of Houston, is currently the presiding judge for the 164th District Court for the State of Texas and has jurisdiction over Texas civil cases located within Harris County.
A federal grand jury returned the seven-count indictment Oct. 24, which was unsealed today as she surrendered to federal authorities. She is expected to make her initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Bray today, as early as 10:00 a.m.
“The defendant in this case is a judge, whose responsibilities are to make sure the law is followed and carried out,” Turner. “She was entrusted to serve the citizens of Harris County with duty and honor. However, the allegations contained in today’s indictment show that the judge put personal enrichment over this duty and honor."
Smoots-Thomas allegedly embezzled campaign contributions individuals and political action committees had made to her re-election campaigns. The indictment alleges Smoots-Thomas repeatedly solicited campaign contributions on the premise the money would be used to help facilitate her re-election campaigns in both 2012 and 2016. She allegedly used campaign funds for non-campaign expenses to include monthly home mortgage payments, private school tuition payments, personal travel expenses, personal luxury items and cash withdrawals. Smoots-Thomas concealed this spending from both her campaign treasurer and the Texas Ethics Commission by filing false campaign finance reports, according to the charges.
Each count of wire fraud carries a possible sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison as well as a maximum $250,000 fine.
The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ralph Imperato and John Pearson are handling the matter.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.