Deal for Thomas — on old student loans

December 14, 2011

D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. reached an agreement Wednesday with the federal government to repay student loan debt dating 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 said nothing during the proceedings. He later referred questions to his attorney, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., who said only that he was “pleased with the agreement we reached with the government.”

The hearing occurred less than two weeks after federal agents raided Thomas’s Northeast Washington home in connection with allegations that he 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 Irvin B. Nathan alleged in a lawsuit filed against Thomas that the money was used for an Audi sport-utility vehicle and trips to Las Vegas and Pebble Beach, Calif. Thomas settled that suit, agreeing to repay the District without interest or penalties.

In the student loan matter, the Justice Department sued Thomas in 2006 to force him to repay a debt that it said totaled nearly $16,000. It was also seeking attorneys’ fees of $4,051.

Thomas A. Mauro, a private lawyer who represents the Justice Department in student loan lawsuits, said in court that Thomas 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 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 filing until Monday. As they left the courthouse, Mauro and Cooke declined to discuss what was in the agreement.

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