Federal authorities on Friday searched the Northeast Washington home of D.C. Councilman Harry Thomas Jr., towing away two vehicles as the Ward 5 representative is under investigation for diverting for his personal use $300,000 in grant money intended for youth in the city.
D.C. police blocked off the 17th Street cul-de-sac on which Thomas lives at about 8 a.m. for agents from the FBI and IRS. The agents searched a Chevy Tahoe sport-utility vehicle for several hours before towing it away along with a Victory motorcycle.
Agents also were hauling what appeared to be evidence in large plastic bags. Others walked out of the home carrying manila envelopes.
The councilman’s city hall office was not searched on Friday. A law enforcement source told The Washington Examiner that no arrests were made Friday in the case.
Calls and texts to Thomas on Friday were not answered or returned.
One of Thomas' attorneys told the Associated Press that the search was unexpected.
"Today's events come as a surprise given that we have been cooperating fully and in earnest with federal authorities in their investigation. We will continue to do so," Seth Rosenthal wrote in an email.
Federal authorities have been investigating Thomas since at least June, and D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan already got Thomas to agree to repay $300,000 in public money that the councilman was accused of funneling from a grant for youth baseball to two companies he ran so he could buy a luxury SUV and take golfing vacations.
Thomas did not admit any wrongdoing in the matter.
"The allegations in the Attorney General's complaint about there being no service provided and a purposeful misuse of any funds are not true... It is not uncommon for grantees, including DC agencies receiving federal funds, to have expenditures disallowed," the councilman said in a statement.
Although it is unclear what implications Friday’s search will have on the federal investigation, three council members — Mary Cheh, Tommy Wells and David Catania — have earlier said Thomas’ power on the council needs to be limited.
Thomas serves on three committees and gave up his leadership role on the economic development committee this summer.
On Friday, at-large Council candidate Tim Day said he wants Thomas to step down.
“We need to get our house in order. There have been years and years of questionable things [on the Council],” said Day, who first alerted authorities to irregularities on the nonprofit Team Thomas. “Hopefully we will see true ethical reform in D.C. out of this.”
This week, a Council committee held its second hearing on ethics reform, and a comprehensive bill is expected to go before the full Council this month.
Thomas is not the only elected official to be under investigation this year. Mayor Vincent Gray's administration has been marred by the questionable hiring practices by former top aides, including his ex-chief of staff who since resigned. An August D.C. Council report found those people had engaged in cronyism and were largely to blame for the poor vetting of political appointees and for handing out salaries higher than the city's mandated cap.
Former mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown says Gray's campaign staffers gave him money to stay in the race and continue his verbal attacks on then-Mayor Adrian Fenty. Brown says he was also offered an administration job as a reward for his efforts.
Gray's 2010 campaign is also under federal investigation, as is Council Chairman Kwame Brown's 2008 campaign.
Examiner staff writer Scott McCabe contributed to this report.