Mayor Richard Thomas of Mount Vernon was arraigned Monday on criminal charges following a corruption investigation by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.
In a press conference Monday afternoon, Schneiderman detailed a complaint against Thomas that alleges he used his campaign and inaugural accounts as “personal piggybanks” in a scheme that ran from the start of his campaign in 2015 through his time in office.
Thomas was not held in custody after being arraigned. The 35-year-old, first-term mayor denied the allegations outside the courthouse in Mount Vernon on Monday.
He said he wanted to “reassure the people of Mount Vernon that this has nothing to do with my service in office, as it relates to the campaign. 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.”
The attorney general’s office charged Thomas with one count of third-degree grand larceny, two counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and two counts of second-degree offering a false instrument for filing.
Thomas allegedly stole about $12,900 from his 2015 mayoral campaign committee, Friends of Richard Thomas, for personal use.
The 35-year-old mayor also allegedly diverted more than $45,000 from the Richard Thomas Inaugural Committee, a fund created to fund his inauguration, for personal use without disclosing the payments.
“As alleged in our complaint, he repeatedly used his campaign and inaugural accounts as slush funds to help pay off expensive cars, dinners and even purchase a Chanel purse worth over $2,000,” Schneiderman said.
Thomas also allegedly used campaign funds to make payments on insurance policies and rent, Schneiderman said.
While Schneiderman said there is “latitude” with campaign funds, he said Thomas’ “pattern of looting here really is extraordinary.”
“This is not typical to deposit checks from your campaign committee and then pay things off,” Schneiderman said. “That’s not common.”
The attorney general said the investigation is ongoing and encouraged anyone with information to come forward. The investigation, he said, was spurred by complaints to his and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office.
If found guilty, Thomas would be forced from office. Schneiderman said the mayor could face from two to six years in prison if convicted of all charges.
Staff writer Ryan Deffenbaugh contributed to his report.