Ex-leader of Mashantucket Pequot tribe convicted of theft
AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File
FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2008 file photo, Michael Thomas, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut, left, makes remarks as Gov. Ed Rendell listens during a news conference at City Hall in Philadelphia. Prosecutor Christopher Mattei said Monday, July 22, 2013 at the opening of a federal theft trial that Thomas improperly charged $80,000 to a tribe-issued credit card for a limousine to shuttle his mother to doctor's appointments. The charges in question were made on a tribe-issued American Express card between 2007 and 2009. Thomas has pleaded not guilty to one count of theft from an Indian tribal organization and two counts of theft concerning an Indian tribal government receiving federal funds.
A former chairman of the tribe that owns Connecticut's Foxwoods Resort Casino was convicted Wednesday of stealing about $100,000 from his Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation to pay for limousine service trips for his mother and satellite radio, cable TV and other personal expenses for himself.
A federal jury in New Haven deliberated less than two hours before finding Michael Thomas guilty of three theft charges.
At his two-day trial, testimony revealed that most of the money went toward a limousine service to bring his ailing mother to medical appointments. Thomas charged the tribe $89,000 for the trips, including $28,000 in tips, according to testimony.
A defense attorney argued the charges for rides to doctor's appointments were legitimate expenses. Thomas did not testify and his lawyer did not call any witnesses.
Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 22. Thomas faces a maximum of up to 25 years in prison but guidelines, which could call for less, have not been determined yet.
The defendant's brother, tribal treasurer Steven Thomas, is to be tried separately on charges that he stole $700,000 from the tribe.
During closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutor Doug Morabito said Thomas used a tribe-issued credit card "for his own piggy bank" at a time when the organization was struggling financially and laying off employees.
"The people of the Mashantucket community are out $100,000 because Michael Thomas took it," said prosecutor Christopher Mattei.
A defense attorney, Paul Thomas, told the jury that the government failed to prove its case and that the charges for rides to doctor's appointments were legitimate expenses.
"What you have in the end is opinion, belief and assumption," Thomas said. "The evidence did not show that Michael Thomas, other than a handful of small charges, made impermissible personal charges or that those charges were part of a scheme or that Michael Thomas acted with any unlawful purpose, intent."
Morabito said Thomas signed a tribal resolution prohibiting use of the credit card for personal expenses. Tribal employees repeatedly advised him he could not use the card for personal expenses, he said.