The federal probe stems from allegations first leveled by D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, who sued Thomas in June, accusing him of using his position on the council to divert more than $300,000 in public funds intended for youth sport programs to groups he headed. Nathan alleged that the money was used as a lavish personal account 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 city lawsuit.
Nathan, who has limited powers to prosecute criminal offenses, referred the case to U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. But since the settlement in late July, there have been few signs of a criminal probe. Thomas, who joined the council in 2007, had initially retreated from the public eye but has started to reemerge as a political force.
Thomas has denied any wrongdoing and has said he settled the suit “in the best interest of the city.” The council member was at home during Friday’s search. Two of his attorneys were with him, but neither answered questions.
In a brief statement, attorney Karl A. Racine said that Thomas continues to cooperate with authorities and maintain his innocence. “At the conclusion of this matter, we sincerely believe that there will be no finding of any criminal violations,” he said.
The FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. attorney’s office all acknowledged “law enforcement activity” at Thomas’s home but declined further comment .
Friday’s events made it clear that Thomas is under intense law enforcement scrutiny. The public nature of the raid also cast a spotlight on this year’s legal troubles in city government, just as officials have been trying to move past the allegations.
Thomas is among several city officials under investigation by federal authorities.
In March, Machen’s office said it was looking into allegations that Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s campaign engaged in a scheme in the run-up to the 2010 Democratic primary to have little-known candidate Sulaimon Brown level verbal attacks on incumbent Adrian M. Fenty in return for cash payments and promises of a job. Probes by the D.C. Council and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have not directly implicated Gray in wrongdoing but have raised questions about his campaign associates. Gray has denied the allegations.
And in July, the city’s elections board referred to Machen an audit of Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown’s 2008 council campaign that found it had failed to report contributions and expenditures of more than $270,000. The audit also found that the campaign passed $239,000 to a company owned by Brown’s brother via a now-defunct consulting firm.