Mashantucket — Facing a federal trial on charges he stole more than $700,000 from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, Steven Thomas resigned from the tribal council and is expected to change his plea in the case in a bid to avoid prison time.
Thomas, 39, who had been the council’s treasurer, is scheduled to appear today at a change-of-plea hearing before Judge Janet Bond Arterton in U.S. District Court in New Haven. He is expected to plead guilty to a single count of theft concerning an Indian tribal government receiving federal funds, according to a source with knowledge of tribal affairs.
Thomas, who in January had pleaded not guilty to three counts of theft outlined in an indictment, is changing his plea to guilty to the single count in exchange for a recommendation that his sentence include no prison time, the source said.
The tribal council, which governs the tribe and oversees the management of its Foxwoods Resort Casino, announced Thomas’ resignation at a meeting Wednesday with tribal members. In a statement issued after the meeting, the tribe said:
“The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council has received correspondence from Tribal Council Member Steven Thomas, resigning his position on the Tribal Council.
“We are grateful for his hard work and dedication since assuming his position on Council and wish Steven and his family the best in his future endeavors.
“The Tribe does not plan to make any additional comments regarding this matter at this time.”
Tribal members received no other information at the meeting, at which many people became emotional, a source said.
Neither Thomas’ attorney nor the federal prosecutor in the case responded to requests for comment.
Both the original indictment against Thomas and a superseding indictment filed last month charged him with one count of theft from an Indian tribal organization and two counts of theft concerning an Indian tribal government receiving federal funds. The count to which he is changing his plea — Count Two of the indictment — carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison followed by up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.
The federal government alleged that Thomas stole from the tribe by accepting payment for work he never performed while serving as assistant director of the tribe’s Department of Natural Resources Protection from January 2005 through June 2008.
During that period, Thomas falsified weekly time cards he submitted to the tribe, the superseding indictment charged.
The government responded late last month to claims Thomas’ attorney, Richard Reeve, had raised in a June motion asking that the judge either dismiss the case or order the prosecution to provide greater details of its allegations. Reeve and the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Mattei, were to argue the motion today before Judge Arterton.
Steven Thomas was named council treasurer in January 2012. He was elected to his second three-year term on the tribal council in November 2012 and was sworn in Jan. 4, 2013, the same day he and his brother Michael, a former tribal chairman, were indicted on theft charges.
Michael Thomas, 45, was found guilty in July of embezzling about $100,000 from the tribe by misusing a tribe-issued credit card while he was chairman. A jury returned the verdict at the end of a three-day trial. Michael Thomas is to be sentenced Oct. 22.
Under the tribe’s constitution and by-laws, a councilor found guilty of a felony or misdemeanor involving dishonesty in any state or federal court must resign. A special meeting to fill the resulting vacancy must be called within 30 days. It was unclear Wednesday whether Thomas’ seat could be filled in an upcoming council election. Two seats on the seven-member council are up for election Nov. 3.
Incumbents Marjorie Colebut-Jackson and Fatima Dames have declared their candidacies for re-election. Also declaring themselves candidates this week were Michael L. Johnson Sr., Daniel Menihan, L. Brian Sebastian, Cynthia Sebastian-Welch, Kimberly Shockley and James D. Walker.