Mount Vernon mayor charged with misusing campaign funds

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The mayor's mug shot shows him wearing the same suit and tie he later wore while denying the accusations. The mayor's mug shot shows him wearing the same suit and tie he later wore while denying the accusations.
From the steps of City Hall, the mayor vowed that he would be vindicated and pledged not to let the case distract him from his mayoral duties. From the steps of City Hall, the mayor vowed that he would be vindicated and pledged not to let the case distract him from his mayoral duties.
MOUNT VERNON -

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas surrendered to police Monday on charges that he used campaign funds for his own personal benefit.

"The allegations are not true, " Thomas said afterward, from the steps of City Hall, where he also vowed that he would be vindicated and pledged not to let the case distract him from his mayoral duties.

But New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman described the mayor's actions in blunt terms.

"The pattern of looting here is extraordinary," Schneiderman said. "This is not typical to deposit checks from your campaign committee into your personal checking account and pay things off."

MORE: Critic calls on Mount Vernon mayor to resign over corruption charges

Schneiderman accused the 35-year-old Democrat of stealing more than $12,000 from his Friends of Richard campaign and misrepresenting it on finance filings. Thomas faces one count of grand larceny, two counts of filing a false instrument and two counts of offering to file a false instrument. In all, he allegedly continued to mishandle funds well after his election, pocketing more than $45,000.

According to Schneiderman, Thomas used the money for personal expenses — like car payments, vacations and gifts for his wife.

"He repeatedly used his campaign and inaugural accounts as slush funds to help pay off expensive cars, dinners and to even pay off a Chanel purse worth over $2,000," Schneiderman said.

Furthermore, according to the attorney general, the paper trail shows that Thomas had local businessmen pay his college tuition and thousands of dollars in credit card bills. One of those men later became a deputy commissioner in the city's police department without any prior experience, Schneiderman said.

City Councilman Andre Wallace, who has often butted heads with the mayor, said he would wait for due process.

"I don't think it's something anybody should jump to conclusions," he said. "We should wait until all the facts come out."

The judge ordered Thomas to turn over his passport in the next 72 hours. He is due back in court May 1. If convicted, he faces up to six years in prison.

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