Seattle — A 63-year-old Renton, Washington, man pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to lying to federal agents about a fraud scheme carried out by a former Drainage District Commissioner and his wife, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. DARRELL N. WINSTON pleaded guilty to making a false statement and faces up to five years in prison when sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones on December 18, 2020.
According to the plea agreement, WINSTON repeatedly misled FBI agents about his agreement with and work for former Drainage District Commissioner Allan Thomas and his wife. WINSTON operated a business called City Biz and originally told agents he had submitted a bid and been hired by Thomas to clean some of the drainage ditches in the district. In fact, WINSTON and his company did little or no work, but were paid more than $50,000 by King County based on fake invoices. WINSTON paid most of the money back to Allan Thomas and his wife, and the two used the money for their own benefit. WINSTON lied to investigators on multiple occasions.
Last month, the grand jury returned a superseding indictment against Allan B. Thomas and Joan B. Thomas charging them with 15 federal crimes, including conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft in connection with their six-year scheme to divert more than $400,000 in local tax dollars to their own use.
Allan B. Thomas served as Commissioner for Drainage District 5 in King County for more than 35 years. As a Commissioner, Thomas was involved in estimating the costs of drainage maintenance for the district so that the county auditor could set and assess the appropriate taxes. The Commissioners then authorized payment to service providers who were supposed to do maintenance work on the drainage system.
As early as 2012, Joann Thomas set up a joint bank account with Allan Thomas’ son from a previous marriage. The account was a business account for a company called A C Services. Over the next six years, Allan Thomas had $413,323 of local tax dollars paid to A C Services claiming it was for drainage ditch maintenance. However, financial records indicate that over the six years, shortly after the tax dollars were deposited into the A C Services account, the money was quickly transferred to other accounts belonging to the Thomases, or was used to pay their expenses for such things as hay, mortgage payments, or property taxes. More than $70,000 was withdrawn as cash.
In 2018, after the couple became aware of an investigation into their conduct, they began funneling the tax dollars through WINSTON’s company, City Biz.
In all, the indictment alleges the THOMASES defrauded taxpayers of $468,165.
The charges contained in the Thomas indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering are punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Conspiracy is punishable by five years in prison. Aggravated identity theft is punishable by two years in prison to follow any sentence imposed on other counts of conviction.
The FBI and IRS – Criminal Investigation are leading the investigation with assistance from the Enumclaw Police Department. The Enumclaw City Attorney initiated the review of the district finances. The Washington State Auditor’s Office also conducted an audit of the district in 2019. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, in consultation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, determined the case was appropriate for federal prosecution.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Justin Arnold and Andrew Friedman.