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Seattle FBI searches home of ousted King County commissioner

Authorities raided the home of a former King County official after a KING 5 investigation exposed the official’s alleged theft of public money.

FBI agents and Enumclaw police raided the farmhouse of a former public commissioner who allegedly stole taxpayer money. A KING 5 investigation uncovered the alleged theft last April.

Allan “Benny” Thomas, the longtime commissioner of King County Drainage District No. 5, was not arrested or charged.

Thomas is the target of a public corruption case. King County prosecutors handed the case off to the feds in recent weeks, according to sources.

Public documents show that Thomas collected nearly $500,000 in taxes during a seven-year period that was supposed to be used to maintain 18 miles of stormwater drainage trenches around the Enumclaw area. Records show that $413,000 of those tax dollars went into Thomas’ private bank account and was spent on personal expenses like livestock feed and equipment for his 150-acre dairy farm.

Also see | New leaders sworn in to replace ousted King County drainage district commissioners

Kimberly Ellis, who owns The Lift Espresso across the street from the Thomas farm, said FBI agents and Enumclaw police showed up at the farm around 6 a.m. Friday morning.

“They were searching. They brought out several items and they were looking through those items,” Ellis said.

Enumclaw police began investigating a fraud complaint against Thomas is 2017. They forwarded the case to the King County Prosecutor’s Office, but no charges were filed.

One source said the FBI took the case because of the federal government’s authority to forfeit property that was used in a crime.

Thomas denied any wrongdoing in April.

Also see | Small governments taxing Washington residents without holding elections

KING 5’s “Money Down the Drain” series also revealed that Thomas had not been elected to office since the 1980s. An antiquated state law allows drainage districts and some other governments in Washington to bypass traditional elections if the office holder is unopposed.

Thomas claimed that no one filed to run against him as he continued to collect up to $80,000 per year from the 600 property owners in Drainage District 5.

Follow Chris Ingalls on Twitter @CJIngalls.