Federal prosecutors charged Sudhan Thomas with embezzling more than $45,000 from the Jersey City Employment and Training Program Friday.
In July, a whistleblower who had been with the JCETP for 22 years was fired from her position after reporting her concerns that Thomas was mismanaging agency funds by making checks out to cash.
The story was first reported by the New Jersey Globe.
Nuira Sierra, the whistleblower, passed her concerns about Thomas’s behavior in a letter to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito and State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, citing three checks made out to cash from the JCETP account worth a total of $16,500.
Federal authorities said Thomas also made checks payable to others but ultimately received by him.
Some of the checks were exchanged for bank checks payable to Next Glocal, a foundation run by Thomas.
Authorities said Thomas used the JCETP funds to make rent payments for his Jersey City apartment and finance a trip to Hawaii, among other personal expenses.
Thomas is due to appear in a Newark Federal court on Jan. 9. The charges against him carry a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $250,000.
In August, Sierra filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Thomas and CFO Angel Santa of retaliating against her.
“The public servant who reported this was fired in retaliation by Sudhan Thomas,” said Bill Matsikoudis, the attorney representing Sierra. “And that great wrong as still not been righted.”
The former Jersey City School Board of Education president — Thomas lost his re-election race in November — faces separate charges at the state level.
Grewal’s office has accused Thomas, a close ally of Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, of accepting $35,000 in bribes from a cooperating witness the has identified as Matthew O’Donnell.
According to Grewal, Thomas accepted bribe in exchange for a promise to provide O’Donnell with work projects from the school board sometime between May and July of last year.
The state charges are part of a larger sting involving O’Donnell that has led to charges against five New Jersey politicians, including former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell and former Morris County Freeholder John Cesaro.
Thomas took his post at the head of the JCETP after he and Fulop coordinated the ouster of former Gov. Jim McGreevey, who was preceded Thomas as the agency’s chief.
In an email sent to Fulop and members of the Jersey City Council, Thomas repeated allegations that McGreevey mismanaged agency funds, citing a forensic audit he said revealed the former governor embezzled $5.1 million from the JCETP.
“McGreevy is well connected and this is the reason he has gotten Scott free thus far. I do not want to talk about myself but you can draw your inferences accordingly.”
That audit, purportedly conducted in May — two months before Thomas resigned from the JCETP in the wake of Sierra’s whistleblower lawsuit — has never been publicly released.
McGreevey, who has devoted his post-gubernatorial life to prisoner re-entry, has vehemently denied the charges, pointing to numerous past audits that uncovered no wrongdoing.thomas.complaint_0