SEATTLE — A jury has been seated in the corruption trial of a former public official who was exposed in 2019 in a KING 5 investigation.
Allan “Benny” Thomas and his wife JoAnn face 15 federal charges including conspiracy and money laundering.
Thomas was the longtime, elected commissioner of King County Drainage District No. 5 near Enumclaw who was responsible for maintaining nearly 20 miles of open trenches that provide drainage to the farmland outside the city.
Records show that various public agencies were tipped that Thomas may have been misappropriating the $70,000 to $80,000 per year in taxes that the drainage district collects from landowners to clean the open trenches and keep stormwater flowing. But none took action beyond a vague warning.
In 2019, the KING 5 Investigators reported on records that showed that Thomas and his wife created a fictitious company that he claimed was a contractor that was billing for the trench work. In fact, the company’s address was the home of Thomas’s mother-in-law.
Records showed that, after Thomas was questioned about the billing irregularities, he set up a scheme to submit fake invoices from a friend’s company.
That company continued to bill the county until KING 5 aired its investigation in 2019.
A state audit after KING 5’s story showed that the couple diverted more than $468,000 in tax money collected over eight years to pay for operations on their private dairy farm. The audit revealed the Thomas’ spent the money on hay, equipment, and farm services.
Thomas and his wife pleaded “not guilty.” Their trial was delayed repeatedly because of pandemic shutdowns and illness of the couple and their defense lawyers.