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Prosecutors recommend 27 to 33 months in prison for Michael Thomas

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: theday.com

Published November 12. 2013 7:00PM   Updated November 12. 2013 11:44PM

Federal prosecutors believe Michael Thomas, the former Mashantucket Pequot tribal chairman convicted of embezzling more than $100,000 from the tribe, should serve more than two years in prison.

Thomas, 45, is to be sentenced Nov. 19 by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton.

In a memorandum filed Tuesday in federal court in New Haven, the government "respectfully submits" that a prison sentence of 27 to 33 months "is appropriate and necessary" in Thomas' case. He should also be sentenced to a term of supervised release from prison and be ordered to make restitution to the tribe in the amount of $123,318, prosecutors wrote.

Acting U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Mattei signed the memorandum.

A jury convicted Thomas in July, deliberating for less than two hours before finding him guilty on all three counts of an indictment charging him with illegal use of a tribe-issued American Express card to pay for personal expenses from October 2007 to September 2009.

The two-year period specified in the indictment came at the end of Thomas' seven-year reign as chairman. He was ousted with the tribe facing serious financial problems due to declining revenues at its Foxwoods Resort Casino. Thomas had pledged to put funding for tribal government and payments to tribal members ahead of the tribe's obligations to lenders.

"During his tenure as chairman, the defendant (Thomas) repeatedly abused his position of authority to divert tribal assets for his personal benefit and the benefit of his family and associates," prosecutors wrote in the memorandum.

Thomas' personal expenses included a private car service for his mother, who traveled to dialysis treatments; a private car service for himself and his associates; personal Internet service; personal satellite radio service; personal cable television service; cellular telephone service for his personal associates; personal entertainment expenses; and extravagant lodging expenses for a group trip to New York City.

"In short, at a time when the defendant was supposed to be safeguarding tribal resources, he used the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation as his own personal piggy bank," prosecutors wrote.

They maintained that Thomas embezzled from the tribe from 2005 through 2009, a longer period than alleged in the indictment. They wrote that the uncharged criminal conduct was relevant to sentencing "as part of the nature and circumstances of the defendant's offense and his history and characteristics."

In the memorandum, the prosecutors described Thomas as "a man of contradictions and unfulfilled potential," noting he overcame troubles in his early years to assume a leadership role with the tribe.

"Ultimately, while Mr. Thomas may have certain admirable personal qualities, it is the government's view that over time he has demonstrated a harmful tendency to engage in irresponsible, unethical and criminal behavior," the prosecutors wrote.

Thomas' younger brother, Steven Thomas, pleaded guilty last month to a single charge of stealing from the tribe and faces sentencing early next year.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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