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Boxing center money may have gone to luxuries for owners

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The 31-count federal indictment leveled against Keely Thompson Jr. and his wife, Bianca, in November is the kind of thing that gets the blood boiling. If the grand jury’s charges are true, the Thompsons are wolves masquerading as shepherds and some of our city officials are about as dumb as sheep.

The Thompsons have pleaded not guilty, and on Friday U.S. District Court judge Emmet G. Sullivan set a trial date of Oct. 2.

As The Post and Washington City Paper have reported, the Thompsons created Keely’s District Boxing and Youth Center (KDBYC) in 2003 to help “at-risk” youth, from ages 8 to 18, in Columbia Heights. Keely Thompson had fought as a professional boxer several years earlier.

Some might say that the ability to punch someone’s lights out might not rank high among the skills needed to help kids navigate their way to responsible adulthood.

Sure, the streets can be tough. But learning how to read, write and do arithmetic and how to respect others and yourself rank, at least to me, higher than mastering an uppercut.

The D.C. government, however, apparently thought juvenile fisticuffs were a swell idea. From 2004 to 2009, according to the indictment, the District gave the boxing center more than $1.4 millionthrough grants from city agencies, the council and nonprofit entities.

One entity, the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., gave the Thompsons $471,405 over four years. To what end?

The indictment charged that the Thompsons deposited grant funds into the company’s checking account and then proceeded to do the following (draw near, D.C. taxpayers, to see your hard-earned money at work):

Bianca Thompson, according to the indictment, issued a $2,200 check from the boxing center’s business checking account in August 2007to pay for Keely Thompson’s “personal legal fees relating to an assault charge filed against” him in the District.

In November 2007 she allegedly used $662.23 in center funds to pay leasing costs on a 2005 BMW 525i, and in February 2008 she “caused $1,087.58 in KDBYC funds to be used to pay for a vehicle lease on a 2008 Lincoln Navigator.”

In July 2008, the indictment charged, Bianca Thompson issued a bonus check to her husband for $18,500 that he used in part to “purchase furniture for their family residence in Maryland.”

In August 2008, the indictment said, Bianca Thompson used $196.10 in company funds to pay for the children’s inflatable toy known as a Moonbounce “for a personal event” at the family residence. That same month, she used $1,466 in boxing center funds to pay for a water slide and Ferris wheel for a personal event at the family residence, it said.

The indictment charged that on or near Oct. 7, 2008, Keely Thompson withdrew “$5,225 in KDBYC funds from an ATM on board a Norwegian Cruise Lines cruise ship, to gamble.” Two days later, he withdrew the same amount on board “to gamble,” it said.

That month, the indictment said, he withdrew $4,159.99 in center funds from an ATM in Bally’s casino in Atlantic City and then withdrew $5,159.99 the same day “to gamble.”

“On or about October 20, 2008,” the indictment said, Keely Thompson transferred $11,000 from the business checking account to his personal checking account. The following day, the indictment said, he “withdrew $9,315 from an ATM in Bally’s casino in Atlantic City” from his personal checking account “to gamble.”

The grand jury cited several other instances of Keely Thompson withdrawing thousands of dollars of center funds to gamble at Bally’s in 2008 and 2009.

The indictment also charged that the Thompsons used about $135,000 in center funds “to pay for an April 4, 2009, event at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., which purported to be a KDBYC fundraiser, but instead was primarily a social gathering” for the Thompsons’ friends and associates. It raised about $23,000 for the boxing center, the indictment said.

The feds, of course, will have to lay out their case in court, and the Thompsons should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Keely Thompson could not be reached for comment this week. Bianca Thompson referred me to their attorney, Jason Kalafat. He has not returned my call.

But the questions don’t stop with the Thompsons. If there’s any truth to the indictment’s allegations, city officials have some explaining to do: How could so much go out the door unchecked? How could the Thompsons’ behavior go unnoticed? The indictment said that as a result of the Thompsons’ failure to spend enough on equipment and supplies, “the boxing ring floor lacked proper support and the ring ropes were loose; the floor surrounding the boxing ring was exposed concrete; and the youth attending the program were often provided torn or worn out boxing gloves, headgear and equipment.”

This week I sought a meeting with the Children and Youth Investment Trust to explore the circumstances surrounding the $470,000 it gave the Thompsons. The trust’s communications manager canceled the meeting at the last minute, citing legal proceedings against the Thompsons and saying pertinent files were not immediately available.

This is the same city-funded agency through which former council member Harry Thomas Jr. funneled grants intended for D.C. youth into his own pockets — a scheme for which he is serving time in a federal penitentiary.

Is there anyone in the D.C. government really wants to know what happened?

Read more from Colbert King’s archive.

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