Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

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New York AG Claims Mount Vernon Mayor Misused Campaign Funds

March 12, 2018 - 11:45 am

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (WCBS 880) -- The mayor of Mount Vernon has been arrested for allegedly stealing money from his campaign.

As WCBS 880’s Kevin Rincon reported, Mayor Richard Thomas, 35, is facing felony charges of third-degree grand larceny, a felony, and filing a false instrument.

Thomas surrendered to authorities Monday.

New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman alleged that Thomas took nearly $13,000 from his campaign committee, the Friends of Richard Thomas, diverting over $45,000 from his inaugural committee for personal use and failing to disclose it.

Before the election, Thomas allegedly used the money to pay off cars, dinners, and a $2,000 Chanel purse. Schneiderman alleged that after the election, Thomas used cash from his inaugural committee to pay of his and his wife's personal American Express bills.

"Over the course of 2016, we allege that Mayor Thomas used this account to pay off more than 44-thousand dollars on his personal American Express card," Schneiderman said.

Read the Criminal Complaint (pdf)

“As we allege, Mayor Thomas used his campaign and inaugural accounts as personal piggybanks – part of a long-running scheme that began during his 2015 campaign and continued throughout his time in office,” said Schneiderman. “Mayor Thomas treated these accounts as slush funds to pay off cars, dinners, and even a Chanel purse, and then lied about it in his filings. Public corruption strikes at the very heart of our democracy, and we’re committed to continuing to root it out across New York.”

“This official allegedly misused campaign funds and failed to report gifts,” State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said. “We will continue to fight public corruption wherever we find it.”

Thomas maintained his innocence as he stood behind his attorney, Carl Bernstein, who addressed reporters outside of City Hall. He said the charges are related to the campaign and have nothing to do with his performance as a mayor.

"We have had an opportunity to look at the charges and we intend to vigorously contest each and every charge with respect to what the mayor is facing," Bernstein said.

"I have great confidence in our legal system and I have no doubt that we will be able to prove our full compliance with the letter, ethics and spirit of the law," Thomas said.

Thomas was elected in 2015 and became the youngest mayor ever in Mount Vernon.

If convicted, Thomas would have to step down.