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Mashantucket Pequot treasurer seeks dismissal of indictment

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: theday.com

Published June 05. 2013 3:00PM   Updated June 06. 2013 12:04AM

An attorney for Steven Thomas, the Mashantucket Pequot treasurer charged with stealing from the tribe that owns Foxwoods Resort Casino, has asked that the federal government's three-count indictment of his client be dismissed.

In pretrial omnibus motions filed this week in U.S. District Court in New Haven, attorney Richard Reeve argues that the charges against Thomas are "fatally flawed." Failing their dismissal, he writes, the government should be compelled to specify the legal basis of its claims and provide details of the specific acts it's alleging.

Thomas, 38, currently serving his second consecutive three-year term on the tribal council, has pleaded not guilty to charges he stole more than $700,000 in tribal funds while employed as assistant director of its Department of Natural Resources Protection from January 2005 through June 2008.

The government charges Thomas accepted payment for time he did not work.

"While the indictment is completely silent on the details of the alleged offenses, the claim appears to be that Mr. Thomas received salary payments which exceeded that to which he was entitled," Reeve writes. "The claim is not that he did no work at all, but that the hours he actually worked were different from the time sheets he submitted."

The case, Reeve writes, involves no allegation that Steven Thomas "stole" any federal funds.

"This case is not about the federal government protecting taxpayer funds. All of the salary payments to Mr. Thomas that are at the heart of this case were tribal funds, not government money."

Reeve declined to discuss his motions Wednesday, writing in an email they "speak for themselves."

The court filing offers some historical background on the Mashantucket tribe and its growth following federal recognition in 1983. As the tribe sought to maximize work opportunities for repatriated tribal members, it experienced "some significant growing pains," according to the motions.

"Tribal member employees were often not sufficiently trained or experienced to handle their jobs, and many tribal members did not always put in full days or weeks at their employment positions. ... Of all the tribal employees who, it appears, might not have regularly put in full-time hours, Steven Thomas is the only one who is being charged on that basis."

As a tribal councilor, Thomas "has worked tirelessly to change employment rules, incentive plans, and many other facets of tribal life," the filing says.

One of the omnibus motions argues that two of the three counts involve alleged acts that occurred beyond the period outlined in the applicable five-year statute of limitations. Another motion contends the indictment is "duplicitous" in combining multiple alleged acts of theft in each of the three counts.

Asked for comment, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office wrote in an email, "We'll respond in court."

Thomas, free on $100,000 bond, faces a November trial.

His first tribal council term began in January 2010. His fellow councilors named him treasurer in January 2012, and in November of that year, with a federal investigation of tribal finances under way, he won re-election.

Thomas was sworn in to his second term Jan. 4, just hours before the U.S. Attorney's Office announced a grand jury had returned indictments against him and his brother, Michael Thomas, a former council chairman.

Michael Thomas, 44, is charged with one count of theft from an Indian tribal organization and two counts of theft from an Indian tribal government receiving federal funds. He allegedly stole more than $100,000 from the tribe from October 2007 through April 2009, when he was chairman.

Michael Thomas' trial is set to begin next month in New Haven.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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