Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Former Jersey City school board president indicted for fraud, money laundering

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Sudhan Thomas, the former president of the Jersey City Board of Education and the ex-head of the city’s Employment and Training Program, was indicted Monday on charges of embezzlement, money laundering, and fraud, federal authorities announced.

Thomas, 45, is accused of embezzling $45,000 from JCETP, an organization receiving federal funds, as well as wire fraud and money laundering in connection with the JCETP theft, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.

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Paul H. Appel, 78, of Point Pleasant, was charged as Thomas’ accomplice in five of federal indictment’s 26 counts.

But Thomas was also charged with wire fraud for embezzling money from his 2016 Jersey City school board campaign; wire fraud for embezzling money from his 2019 campaign; and bank fraud for stealing checks issued by and to another school board candidate’s campaign in 2018, Carpenito added.

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The former school board president who became a lightning rod for controversy also faces mail and wire fraud counts for schemes to defraud two separate Florida companies, Carpenito added.

Thomas was charged by criminal complaint in January 2020 with embezzling funds from JCETP and was released on a $75,000 unsecured bond. He pleaded not guilty.

Thomas did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Appel’s attorney could not be reached for comment on Monday.

The new charges are just the latest chapter in the one-time public servant’s fall from grace.

Thomas was one of five public officials charged by state authorities last year with accepting tens of thousands in bribes. Thomas was preparing to run for Jersey City Council in 2021 when he allegedly accepted two bribes in the form of campaign contributions from a tax attorney who was secretly cooperating with state authorities.

The state charges came just over a month after Thomas failed to earn enough votes to remain on the Jersey City Board of Education. He previously served as executive director of JCEPT, where he public clashed with his predecessor, former Gov. Jim McGreevey. Thomas resigned from JCEPT in July 2019.

On Monday, federal authorities said Thomas and Appel — his campaign treasurer — embezzled more than $8,000 from Thomas’ 2016 campaign for their own personal use. Thomas embezzled approximately $6,000 more from the campaign in 2019, Carpenito added.

Federal authorities also alleged the two men defrauded a Florida-based technology company of $48,500. In 2016, Thomas and Appel entered into an agreement with the company to purportedly expand the company’s business through a debit card program.

Thomas and Appel ultimately diverted the company’s funds to their own bank accounts and used them to pay personal expenses — including payments to Thomas’ landlord, tuition for his relative, and payments for Appel’s credit and debit card expenses, Carpenito said.

That same year Thomas and Appel entered into another agreement with a Florida-based housing company in connection with the purported sale of modular homes to veterans and the homeless. Between October 2016 and April 2017, authorities say the two men made false representations regarding work they would undertake pursuant to the agreement in order to collect monthly $2,000 payments from the housing company.

The housing company made five $2,000 payments to Thomas and Appel between November 2016 and March 2017. Thomas and Appel misappropriated the funds without providing any meaningful services or generating any business for the company, Carpenito said.




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