KING COUNTY, Wash. — The former elected commissioner of King County Drainage District No. 5 took the stand in his federal conspiracy trial at the US District Courthouse in Seattle on Tuesday.
Allan “Benny” Thomas denied that he used more than $450,000 in tax money collected by the public district to pay expenses for his Enumclaw dairy farm.
Thomas, who served for 37 years before retiring after a 2019 KING 5 investigation, said district records seized by the FBI do 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.”
He admitted dates and locations and specifics in some records are not accurate, but added that was the result of running a busy farm and managing a drainage district at the same time.
The defense claimed the City of Enumclaw bolstered suspicions that Thomas and his wife, JoAnn, were stealing tax money because the city wanted to acquire the Thomas’s 155-acre dairy farm for residential development.
Allan and JoAnn Thomas are charged with 15 federal counts including conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering. Their trial before a jury started on May 9.
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.
Assistant US Attorneys Andrew Friedman and Justin Arnold have told jurors that the Thomas’s created a shell contracting company that claimed it was cleaning and maintaining the 20 or so miles of stormwater trenches in Drainage District No. 5. That company billed King County government for the supposed work, with commissioner Thomas signing off on the job.
The federal government said the Thomas’s actually collected the money paid to the fictitious company and deposited it in their personal bank account to pay for expenses on their dairy farm.
The couple claimed their son, Alex Thomas, owned and operated the contracting company legitimately and that he was paid for clearing ditches. But Alex Thomas testified last week that he only cleaned ditches once or twice in 2012 and has not had any involvement with the company since.
Testimony is expected to conclude Wednesday and the jury should begin considering the case.