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Mayor In Westchester Picks Familiar Defense Team In Corruption Case

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas.
Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas. Photo Credit: Attorney General's Office

Embattled Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas is turning to a familiar defense team as his criminal trial for alleged corruption approaches.

Earlier this year, the Mount Vernon mayor was charged following an investigation which exposed that he allegedly stole $12,900 from his campaign committee and diverted more than $45,000 from his inaugural committee for personal use and failed to disclose that information to officials.

Thomas was charged with third-degree grand larceny and two counts of third-degree ordering a false instrument for filing, all felonies. He was also charged with two counts of second-degree offering a false instrument for filing, misdemeanors.

This week, Thomas announced that he is planning to utilize a Florida legal team that defended advisor Joseph Spiezio to represent him at trial. Benedict Kuehne, Michael Pizzi and Anthony Ricco have now been tabbed by the mayor, replacing his former defense team. They are scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 14.

Thomas attempted to have the felony charges dropped in court in September, but was denied by Westchester County Judge Barry Warhit, who ruled that state prosecutors did not violate any of Thomas’ rights. The mayor remains free without bail.

According to officials, Thomas allegedly stole approximately $12,900 from his 2015 mayoral campaign committee, the Friends of Richard Thomas. After winning election, he allegedly established the Richard Thomas Inaugural Committee, which was “ ostensibly to fund an inaugural celebration, but instead allegedly personally profited from Richard Thomas Inaugural Committee by diverting over $45,000 for personal use and failing to disclose it.”

Funds were allegedly used for personal expenses that included rent for his family residence, car loans, and a payment for three automobile insurance policies for two vehicles on which Thomas was listed as the owner, and another vehicle registered to one of Thomas’ relatives.

It is further alleged that the investigation determined that Thomas allegedly lied on his 2016 annual statement of financial disclosure with the City of Mount Vernon when he did not reveal that businesses controlled by an unnamed individual paid Thomas’ personal American Express bills.

According to the criminal complaint, prior to Thomas filing his 2017 annual statement of financial disclosure with the city, he learned of the existence of the Attorney General’s investigation, which is ongoing.

Thomas has maintained his innocence and vehemently denied the allegations at the time of the charges.

“The allegations are not true, and I want to reassure the people of Mount Vernon that this has nothing to do with my service in office, as it relates to the campaign,” he said. “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.”

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