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Posted at 11:47 AM ET, 12/14/2011

Harry Thomas settles student loan suit with U.S. government

D.C. Councilmember Harry Thomas reached an agreement Wednesday with the federal government to repay student loan debt dating back to the early 1980s.

The Justice Department alleged that Thomas (D-Ward 5) owed nearly $16,000 in principal and interest on the loans, which he obtained in 1983 and 1984 and were guaranteed by the U.S. government.

The agreement, though not its particulars, became public during a hearing Wednesday morning in the District’s federal court.

Thomas, wearing a black suit with a black-and-orange striped tie, said nothing during proceedings. He referred questions to his attorney, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., who would only say that he was “pleased with the agreement we reached with the government.”

The hearing occurred less than two weeks after federal agents raided Thomas’ home in Northeast Washington in connection with an investigation into how he allegedly used his position on the council to divert more than $300,000 in public funds intended for youth sport programs to groups he headed.

In June, D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan alleged in a lawsuit filed against the councilmember that the money was used to purchase an Audi SUV and take trips to Las Vegas and Pebble Beach, Calif. Thomas agreed to repay the District without interest or penalties to settle the lawsuit.

In the student loan matter, the Justice Department filed suit against Thomas in 2006 to force him to repay the debt, which it alleged totaled nearly $16,000. It was also seeking attorneys’ fees of $4,051.

Thomas A. Mauro, a private attorney who represents the Justice Department in student loan lawsuits, said in court that Thomas had agreed to make monthly payments to satisfy the debt. Mauro did not disclose specifics about the agreement, such as the amount owed or the size of the monthly payments.

At first, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson ordered that the signed agreement be filed on the public court docket by 1 p.m. Wednesday. But after a secret conference at the bench initiated by Cooke, she delayed the required filing until Monday. As they left the courthouse, Mauro and Cooke declined to discuss what was in the agreement.

This item has been updated.

By  |  11:47 AM ET, 12/14/2011

Categories:  Del Quentin Wilber, From the Courthouse, The District

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