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Former King County drainage district commissioner sentenced in scheme to steal taxpayer money

Allan Thomas was found guilty on 10 of 15 charges, including conspiracy and wire and mail fraud.

ENUMCLAW, Wash. — A former elected commissioner of King County Drainage District No. 5 found guilty of stealing district taxpayer money was sentenced Friday.

Allan “Benny” Thomas, 70, received a sentence of 2.5 years in federal prison and three years of supervised release.

Thomas and his wife JoAnn faced 15 federal charges including conspiracy and money laundering.

Thomas, who previously denied that he used more than $450,000 in tax money collected by the public district to pay expenses for his Enumclaw dairy farm, was found guilty on 10 of 15 charges, including conspiracy, four counts each of wire and mail fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

“You were not just milking cows, you were milking the community," said Judge Richard Jones at Thomas' sentencing in federal court in Seattle. 

JoAnn Thomas was found guilty on all 15 counts, including a second count of aggravated identity theft and four counts of money laundering.

She was previously sentenced to three years in federal prison following three years of supervised release and fined $1,500.

Allan Thomas was the longtime, elected commissioner of King County Drainage District No. 5 near Enumclaw and 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’ 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 Thomases 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 illnesses of the couple and their defense lawyers.

In court testimony, Thomas said district records seized by the FBI did not accurately reflect how tax money collected since 2012 was spent. Thomas said the records are not clear and that “…for farmer level (bookkeeping) we do pretty good. For professional level, not so good.”  

The defense claimed the City of Enumclaw bolstered suspicions that the couple was stealing tax money because the city wanted to acquire Thomas' 155-acre dairy farm for residential development. 

JoAnn Thomas also testified that government evidence does not accurately reflect where the $70,000-$80,000 the drainage district collected per year from taxpaying landowners was spent. 

“I’m a really lousy bookkeeper,” she said to the jury.

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