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Mount Vernon Mayor Used City Money To Pay Legal Bills, Says Prosecutor

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas.
Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas. Photo Credit: Attorney General's Office.

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas, who is facing corruption charges, has reportedly used city funds to pay legal bills.

Earlier this year, Thomas was charged following an investigation which exposed that he allegedly stole $12,900 from his campaign committee and diverted more than $45,000 from his inaugural committee for personal use and failed to disclose that information to officials.

Thomas was charged with third-degree grand larceny and two counts of third-degree ordering a false instrument for filing, all felonies. He was also charged with two counts of second-degree offering a false instrument for filing, misdemeanors.

Last week, Thomas announced that he is planning to utilize a Florida legal team that defended advisor Joseph Spiezio to represent him at trial. Benedict Kuehne, Michael Pizzi and Anthony Ricco have now been tabbed by the mayor, replacing his former defense team. They are scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 14.

According to a lohud report , Thomas has been using city money for payments, which may be “potentially chargeable as a crime” because they are not permitted by state law or the city’s charter. The potential misappropriation reportedly came to light through a letter sent by the New York State Attorney’s General Office.

On Tuesday, attorney Michael Pizzi issued a lengthy statement on behalf of Thomas, claiming that “the Attorney General’s Office does not want to give Mayor Thomas his day in court and litigate these false charges on the merits," and discounting the merits of former AG Eric Schneiderman, who resigned in May.

“The Office of Attorney General ignored Mayor Thomas when he disclosed possible crimes against the city involving “$6 million in undocumented and uncollectable loans” made to developers connected to Eric Schneiderman as well as disclosed allegations of possible corruption in the Mount Vernon Buildings Department," he stated. "“The Mount Vernon City Charter is clear in its design to defend the Mayor against any and all lawsuits, especially illegal acts by Schneiderman-beholden lawyers who are trying to mislead the public on."

Thomas allegedly stole approximately $12,900 from his 2015 mayoral campaign committee, the Friends of Richard Thomas. After winning election, he allegedly established the Richard Thomas Inaugural Committee, which was “ ostensibly to fund an inaugural celebration, but instead allegedly personally profited from Richard Thomas Inaugural Committee by diverting over $45,000 for personal use and failing to disclose it.”

Funds were allegedly used for personal expenses that included rent for his family residence, car loans, and a payment for three automobile insurance policies for two vehicles on which Thomas was listed as the owner, and another vehicle registered to one of Thomas’ relatives.

It is further alleged that the investigation determined that Thomas allegedly lied on his 2016 annual statement of financial disclosure with the City of Mount Vernon when he did not reveal that businesses controlled by an unnamed individual paid Thomas’ personal American Express bills.

According to the criminal complaint, prior to Thomas filing his 2017 annual statement of financial disclosure with the city, he learned of the existence of the Attorney General’s investigation, which is ongoing.

Thomas has maintained his innocence and vehemently denied the allegations at the time of the charges.

“The allegations are not true, and I want to reassure the people of Mount Vernon that this has nothing to do with my service in office, as it relates to the campaign,” he said. “I have great confidence in our legal system and I have no doubt that we will be able to prove our full compliance with the letter ethics and spirit of the law.”

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