FBI: Tribal leader admitted to personal purchases

AP News
Posted: Jul 23, 2013 1:35 PM
FBI: Tribal leader admitted to personal purchases

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A former chairman of the tribe that owns Connecticut's Foxwoods Resort Casino admitted to investigators that he used a tribe-issued credit card for personal expenses and knew that was prohibited, an FBI agent testified at his trial on theft charges.

Michael Thomas is accused of improperly charging about $100,000 in personal expenses on a credit card issued by his Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Prosecutors say the charges included rides by a limousine service to doctor's appointments for his mother and television and satellite radio for himself.

"He admitted to me he did utilize the card for personal expenses," said FBI agent Robert Bornstein. "He knew that personal expenses were prohibited pursuant to a tribal resolution which had the power of law. He admitted personal expenses in violation of the resolution continued."

Prosecutors finished presenting their evidence Tuesday, and Thomas' attorney called no witnesses. Closing arguments were scheduled for Wednesday.

A defense attorney, Paul Thomas, pointed out that nearly 90 percent of the expenses, or $89,000, was for the rides for doctor's appointments for Thomas' mother.

"He didn't tell you if he believed those were improper, did he?" Thomas asked

"No," Bernstein said.

Thomas said Monday during his opening statement that the jury will have to decide whether the credit card charges really were disallowed.

"Was it impermissible to charge travel on behalf of his sick, dying mother to get treatment?" said Thomas, who is not related to his client.

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Earlier, prosecutors sought to show jurors a photo of Thomas' large house. Prosecutors say they wanted jurors to see the photo to show the expenses were personal.

Paul Thomas objected, saying the purpose really was to show that his client lives in what appears to be a mansion. Judge Janet Bond Arterton sustained the objection.

Thomas, the tribe's chairman from 2003 to 2009, has pleaded not guilty.

Bornstein testified Tuesday about the credit card charges, including about $6,800 in computer equipment Thomas purchased.