Former Jersey City Board of Education president Sudhan Thomas pleaded not guilty on charges that he embezzled over $45,000 from the Jersey City Employment and Training Program, where he served as acting executive director.
According to the Hudson County View, Thomas was arraigned in handcuffs before U.S. District Court Judge Leda Dunn Wettre on Thursday afternoon.
She ordered him released on a $75,000 bail bond that restricts “his travel to within state lines, surrender all passports and travel documents, undergo mental health testing, and maintain or actively seek employment – among other things.
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.
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.
In August, Sierra filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Thomas and CFO Angel Santa of retaliating against her.
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 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.
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.