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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of North Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Federal Judge Sentences Former Berkeley County School District Chief Financial Officer To More Than Five Years For Embezzlement, Money Laundering, And Public Corruption

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Today, U.S. District Judge David C. Norton sentenced the former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Berkeley County School District, Brantley Denmark Thomas, III, to 63 months in prison on charges of embezzlement, money laundering, and public corruption, announced the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina.  Judge Norton also ordered Thomas, 61, of Charleston, South Carolina, to serve three years under court supervision after he is released from prison, and to pay a total of $1,232,106.08 as restitution to Berkeley County School District (BCSD). 

According to filed court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, from at least 2010 to December 2016, Thomas served as CFO of BCSD. As the School District’s CFO, Thomas was responsible for, among other things, reviewing invoices and authorizing payments to BCSD vendors. Court records show that, during the relevant time period, Thomas executed an embezzlement scheme by which he, among other things, intentionally overpaid certain BCSD vendors. When those vendors issued refund checks resulting from the overpayments, Thomas converted the checks issued to School District for his own use. Court records also show that, at times, Thomas deposited the refund checks directly into a personal bank account. At other times, Thomas converted the refund checks into cashier’s checks, which he then deposited into a personal bank account. Over the course of at least sixteen years, Thomas also used other methods to embezzle from BCSD, and stole at least $1.2 million of School District funds. Thomas used the stolen money on personal expenditures, including to pay for personal travel, jewelry and private club memberships.

According to court records and plea related documents, Thomas also admitted to taking at least $32,000 in bribes and kickbacks from an insurance broker in exchange for Thomas’ help in securing millions of dollars in BCSD’s insurance business.

In imposing the sentence, Judge Norton highlighted the serious nature of Thomas’ crimes, and noted its negative impact on the students of BCSD, the need to protect the public from Thomas, and the need to deter Thomas and others from committing such crimes in the future.  Judge Norton also commented upon Thomas’ apparent “OPM Addiction,” – referencing Thomas’ repeated thefts of “Other people’s money.” 

In January 2018, Thomas pleaded guilty to a total of twenty federal charges involving embezzlement, money laundering and public corruption. Thomas is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons, upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. In making today’s announcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office thanked the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office for its assistance.

The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Ryan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina in Charlotte upon recusal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.

 

Updated February 20, 2019