The Washington Post

Neil Rodgers, former aide to D.C. Council member, indicted for role in fraud

Former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. after pleading guilty at the U.S. Federal Court House on Jan. 6, 2012, in Washington, D.C. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

A top aide to former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. was charged by a federal grand jury Friday for his alleged role in helping Thomas divert more than $100,000 in taxpayer funds

Neil S. Rodgers, 61, served as director of the council’s Parks and Recreation Committee, which Thomas chaired, and is alleged to have “used his influence” as a high-ranking council employee to further a scheme to use money from a drug-prevention fund to pay for a 2009 political event. He is charged with theft and three counts of fraud.

Before Thomas resigned and pleaded guilty to felony charges, Rodgers was a veteran city government employee, holding various jobs, including interim director of the parks department.

He is the seventh person charged in connection with the Thomas theft and the second on Thomas’s council staff. Most recently, Ayawna Chase Webster, who was Thomas’s chief of staff, pleaded guilty in July to falsifying tax documents.

U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said in a statement Friday that the indictment represents the “final step” in the investigation into Thomas, which started with the District’s attorney general in 2010.

“The results of this investigation are a reminder of the grave consequences for government employees and others who knowingly facilitate the illegal actions of corrupt elected officials,” Machen said.

An attorney for Rodgers, Kerry Brainard Verdi, did not immediately return requests for comment Friday.

Thomas is serving a 38-month sentence at a federal prison camp in Montgomery, Ala. He admitted in 2011 to stealing more than $350,000 — earmarking taxpayer money for children’s causes and then steering the money through nonprofit groups into his own pocket.

Thomas used the funds for trips, clothing, a motorcycle and a $69,000 luxury sport-utility vehicle, among other items.

Rodgers is alleged to have played a behind-the-scenes role in the separate scheme to divert funds from the anti-drug fund to an inaugural ball at the John A. Wilson Building — a plan Machen described as “stealing tax dollars meant for children to throw a $100,000 black-tie party for adults.”

The indictment returned Friday says Rodgers “caused documents containing false information” to be submitted to the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., a nonprofit group that makes grants for youth programs.

After the event, the indictment says, Rodgers contacted the Youth Trust’s director seeking further payment for ball expenses, then arranged a $342,000 grant to the nonprofit from the anti-drug fund.

He then directed Webster — who headed the D.C. Young Democrats, the ball’s host — to prepare and submit a false tax form to the Youth Trust to support payments for ball expenses, according to the indictment.

The funds, the document says, went to pay for catering, security and other expenses, including some not connected to the ball.

Ann E. Marimow contributed to this report.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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