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August 23, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Mount Vernon mayor pleads guilty to taking campaign funds; will resign from office

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas. Photo by Bill Heltzel

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas will resign and leave office effective Sept. 30 as a consequence of his guilty plea in state court in White Plains this morning to charges of stealing campaign funds and lying about those funds in a disclosure filed with the state’s board of elections.

Thomas pleaded guilty to third-degree attempted grand larceny and second-degree offering a false instrument for filing. Both are misdemeanors.

Thomas admitted that he took approximately $13,000 from his campaign committee, the Friends of Richard Thomas, during his 2015 mayoral candidacy and put it to personal use.    

Thomas was sentenced to pay a $13,000 fine in addition to a one-year conditional discharge. During the one-year period, Thomas may not seek or accept any elected or appointed public office or seek or accept any position as a public servant.

An indictment against Thomas had been filed in Westchester County as a result of a joint investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General and the New York State Office of the Comptroller. 

“By using campaign funds to line his own pockets, Thomas broke the law, and violated public trust,” State Attorney General Letitia James said. “New Yorkers put their faith in our public servants, and Thomas’ gross violation of that faith constitutes the utmost disloyalty to those he was sworn to serve.”

“Mayor Thomas admitted to knowingly misusing campaign donations to fund his lifestyle instead of funding his campaign,” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said. “Thanks to my partnership with Attorney General Letitia James, his scheme was exposed and he has now admitted his guilt.” 

After leaving the county courthouse in White Plains, Thomas met with reporters and emphasized that he pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, not felonies. “Thirteen million Americans get caught up in the misdemeanor system where it’s very difficult to defend yourself, especially when you’re poor. The reality is we know that this outcome today was something that God ordained and I’m gonna go with it, as well as the results of the election.” He was referring to the recent Democratic primary in Mount Vernon for mayor in which he was defeated by Shawyn Patterson-Howard.

“I just want to make it clear,” Thomas said, “had I not had children, had I not had a real future to lose, I would have loved my day in court, a fair day in court.”

Thomas said he took responsibility for “the mistakes made” but added that he was “never given a chance to correct anything.”

He had a few things to say about the city. “Mount Vernon is far better than it was four years ago. And, for a fact, Mount Vernon is safer than White Plains. That’s because of the hard work done by the Mount Vernon Police Department, the hard work of the Mount Vernon Fire Department, the hard work done by recreation to stand in the gap. There are so many things that have been done without any help or support and for those that are standing to benefit from this, God is in charge and I firmly believe that God will deal with each and every person that had a hand in doing this to Mount Vernon.”