Department of Justice: St. Clairsville Councilman Mark Thomas intends to plead guilty to mail fraud | News, Sports, Jobs

File Photo – St. Clairsville Councilman Mark Thomas speaks to Wheeling city officials during his tenure as Belmont County Commissioner. A Justice Department spokeswoman said Tuesday that Thomas agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud in connection with the alleged theft of a former law client.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — St. Clairsville Councilman Mark Thomas intends to plead guilty to a federal felony, according to the Justice Department.

New information emerged Tuesday in the case against the 3rd Ward councilman, former attorney and former Belmont County commissioner, who was scheduled to go to trial on July 11. Instead, he will appear in federal court for a plea change hearing on August 5.

“Mark Thomas has agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud. Mail fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, up to $250,000 in fines, restitution and forfeiture,” said Tuesday by e-mail Jennifer Thornton, spokeswoman for the Department of Justice. “We will provide further details when the court formally accepts the plea at the August 5 hearing.

“He pleads for one count of mail fraud,” she clarified in a subsequent email. “At the federal level, we don’t have different degrees of crime. … It’s not a crime. …And there is no agreement regarding the sentence included in the plea. The court determines the sentence based on federal sentencing guidelines.

Thomas, 61, was initially charged with four counts of criminal mail fraud, based on allegations that he abused his status as an attorney for an elderly client with dementia and stole more than her $500,000.

He will appear before Judge Algenon L. Marbley of the US District Court Southern District of Ohio for the August hearing. Neither Thomas nor his defense attorney, Andy Avellano, responded to messages seeking comment.

The indictment says Thomas was accused of defrauding the client from 2012 to August 2019 while serving as her agent, taking money from her without her knowledge or authorization and using it to its profit. His client was 85 when the alleged offenses began. The indictment also alleges that Thomas improperly used the power of attorney and his status as an attorney after his attorney’s license was revoked in 2015 to convince entities, including banks and insurance companies. life, to transfer the victim’s money for his use.

After his term as county commissioner ended in December 2018, Thomas was sentenced to 30 days in jail for contempt of county court in 2019 for failing to comply with a court order to turn over documents from his private law practice related to the power of attorney. He later complied with the request for records and a lawsuit related to that case was dismissed.

The fraud and contempt charges had no connection to Thomas’ role as an elected official.

In 2015, the Ohio Professional Conduct Board in Columbus suspended Thomas’ law license in Ohio after he allegedly failed to file a response to a formal complaint pending before the board. His law license remains suspended in Ohio and West Virginia.

On November 2, Thomas was elected 3rd Ward Councilor for the City of St. Clairsville.

Belmont County Board of Elections Director Aaron Moore said in the election that Thomas’ name would appear on the ballot because he was innocent until proven guilty. He said his office’s role is limited in any future proceedings regarding a council seat.

City officials said it was too early to tell what would happen with the Thomas siege.

“At this point and at this time, although there is speculation that there will be a plea, nothing has changed until it goes through the legal process and that there is a court decision, so nothing can really be done or considered until the charges are laid. are finalized in court,” St. Clairsville City Council President Jim Velas said.

“We really won’t know anything until the hearing which will take place in August.”

Velas said there was no discussion among board members about filling Thomas’ seat if he left.

“It’s not even under discussion right now until we actually consider whether or not we’re going to have a vacancy,” Velas said. “There’s really nothing to say (until the hearing), it’s all just speculation.”

The City Charter specifies in Article III of Council, Section 4. Vacancy-Creation of, that “Once elected and sworn in, a member of Council shall vacate his position…By conviction while in office for a crime involving moral turpitude. …”

St. Clairsville Mayor Kathryn Thalman and Chief Legal Officer Elizabeth Glick did not respond to messages seeking comment or information on the council’s intentions moving forward.

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