Harry Thomas Jr. associate charged in theft

January 12, 2012

The president of a nonprofit group that played a key role in allowing former District Council member Harry Thomas Jr. to embezzle $300,000 in city funds was charged Thursday with a felony that accuses him of concealing and failing to report the theft.

Marshall D. Banks, 71, was charged in the District’s federal court with misprision of a felony. The charges came in a “criminal information,” a type of document that can only be filed with the defendant’s consent and usually signals that a plea deal is near.

A hearing in his case has been scheduled for Friday morning before U.S. District Judge John D. Bates.

Neither Banks nor his attorney, Vandy Jamison, could be reached for comment. William Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in the District, declined to discuss the case.

Banks, a professor of health, human performance and leisure studies at Howard University, is the first person charged in the investigation of Thomas’s theft since the former council member pleaded guilty last Friday to theft and tax charges a day after resigning his council seat. Thomas admitted he stole $353,000 in D.C. funds between April 2007 and August 2009.

Prosecutors have declined to say whether others might be charged.

Banks is the founder of Langston 21st Century Foundation, a group that provides educational programs to children.

Thomas, a Democrat who represented Ward 5, is scheduled to be sentenced in May. He faces 37 to 46 months in prison, according to federal sentencing guidelines.

According to prosecutors, the newly elected council member ensured that $392,000 in D.C. funds were steered in 2008 and 2009 to Langston 21st Century for a youth baseball program. The foundation then cut $306,000 in checks to two entities controlled by Thomas, who used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle that included luxury cars, meals, trips and clothing, federal prosecutors have alleged.

Banks’s role in the diversion of funds — he wrote the checks to Thomas — was first disclosed last year in a lawsuit filed against Thomas by the D.C. attorney general’s office seeking to recover nearly $400,000 in city money it alleged Thomas had embezzled through the Langston foundation. Thomas settled that suit in July, agreeing to pay the city $300,000. At the time, Thomas did not admit any wrongdoing.

Jimmy Garvin, a golf pro at the John Mercer Langston Golf Course in Northeast Washington and the Langston foundation’s program director, also played a role in helping to divert the funds, according to the attorney general’s lawsuit. Garvin declined to comment Thursday, directing calls to Jamison, who is also his lawyer.

Staff writer Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.

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