The former acting executive director of the Jersey City Employment and Training Program (JCETP) entered a not guilty plea on Jan. 9 to charges of embezzling JCETP funds, according to an announcement by U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.
Former Jersey City Board of Education President Sudhan Thomas, 44, is charged with “embezzling funds from an organization receiving federal funds.”
Thomas made his initial court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre in Newark federal court.
This comes after Thomas was one of five state officials or political candidates indicted for allegedly accepting bribes, according to a Dec. 19 announcement from the NJ Attorney General’s Office.
Thomas served as JCETP’s acting executive director from January 2019 until his resignation in July 2019.
JCETP is a nonprofit organization that assists Jersey City residents to prepare for and enter the work force.
JCETP received substantial amounts of its funding from federal grants from the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
According to the complaint, filed in federal court on Jan. 3, using his access to JCETP funds and control of JCETP’s bank accounts, from March 2019 through July 2019, Thomas allegedly embezzled more than $45,000 from JCETP.
Thomas allegedly caused checks to be drawn from JCETP accounts that were made payable to other people, but that he allegedly ultimately received.
He also allegedly embezzled JCETP funds by issuing JCETP checks made out to cash that Thomas either allegedly cashed himself or used to obtain bank checks that Thomas made payable to his entity, Next Glocal, which were deposited into a Next Glocal bank account that Thomas controlled.
Thomas then allegedly used these JCETP funds deposited to Next Glocal’s bank account to pay for his personal expenses, including payments to Thomas’s landlord in Jersey City and airfare and hotel expenses for a trip to Hawaii. He also allegedly used the monies to fund transfers to Thomas’s family trust account.
Last August, former JCETP employee Nuria Sierra filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against Thomas and the JCETP when she lost her job in July after alerting JCETP board members and state officials to several financial improprieties at the agency, noting Thomas had allegedly made three checks payable to cash and provided no receipts.
Thomas told members of the press that he would fight the charges and prove his innocence.
The count of theft from an organization receiving federal funds carries a maximum potential penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark; the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of the Inspector General (OIG), under the supervision of Special Agent in Charge Michael Mikulka; and special agents of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, under the direction of Supervisory Special Agent Thomas Mahoney, with the investigation leading to the Jan. 6 charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tazneen Shahabuddin of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee M. Cortes Jr., Chief of the Health Care Fraud Unit, in Newark, represents the government.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.