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Sudhan Thomas, alleged accomplice indicted on 26 counts

Former Jersey City School Board president faces new allegations of wire, mail, bank fraud

By Nikita Biryukov, November 02 2020 6:01 pm

A federal grand jury indicted former Jersey City School Board president Sudhan Thomas on additional counts of money laundering, fraud and embezzlement spanning multiple alleged schemes in a massive 26-count indictment, federal prosecutors announced Monday.

Thomas, the former acting executive director of the Jersey City Employment and Training Program (JCETP), faces 25 new charges, some related to a charge claiming he embezzled funds from the JCETP issued in January, and others related to allegedly embezzled campaign money and fraud schemes in Florida.

Point Pleasant attorney Paul Appel, 78, was indicted as Thomas’s accomplice on the same counts, safe five wire fraud charges.

The state’s complaint alleges Thomas embezzled more than $45,000 from the reentry program’s bank accounts through checks to payable to others, including Appel and Next Glocal, a for-profit Florida company where the former School Board Trustee is director, who later redirected funds to Thomas for his personal use.

It further claims the two defendants embezzled $8,000 by disguising them as campaign loan repayments from his 2016 School Board bid and that Thomas illegally moved $6,000 from his 2019 campaign in a similar way.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito’s office further alleges Thomas and Appel defrauded two Florida firms of $58,500 in 2016. The two allegedly said they would create a debit card program for an unnamed Florida business. The company wired them $48,500, which went into their bank accounts.

Prosecutors say they made did no meaningful work for the firm, and Thomas allegedly used the funds to pay rent, tuition for a relative and credit and debit card payments.

They allegedly defrauded another firm out of $10,000 paid in five installments in exchange for work related to modular homes for veterans and homeless individuals that never got done.

The count of theft from a federally funded organization comes with maximum imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.

The counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering can lead to up to 20 years in prison each, with fines of $250,000 for wire and mail fraud and $500,000 for money laundering.

The two counts of bank fraud are punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.

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.

State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office has accused Thomas of accepting $35,000 in bribes from a cooperating witness the has identified as Matthew O’Donnell.

The FBI, U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General participated in the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tazneen Shahabuddin, of the Special Prosecutions Division in Newark, is representing the state. West Orange Attorney Frank Arleo is representing Appel. Thomas does not yet have a defense counsel.

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