Another person has been charged in the Drainage District 5 scheme that allegedly saw Enumclaw residents Allan and Joann Thomas embezzle more than $460,000 of local taxpayer dollars.
Darrell Winston of Renton is the owner of City Biz, a firm that Allan Thomas supposedly hired to perform drainage clearance work in Enumclaw, one of Drainage District 5’s functions. However, according to the Department of Justice, City Biz “subsequently diverted most of the money that it received to the Thomases’ benefit,” court documents read.
Winston is being charged with one count of making a false statement to the FBI during their investigation into the Thomases.
Until the fall of 2019, Allan Thomas spent 35 years as one of the Drainage District 5 commissioners. Drainage District 5, or DD5, is a special tax district that uses local tax revenue to make sure drainage ditches around Enumclaw are clear.
However, according to the Department of Justice, Allan and Joann Thomas set up a business called AC Services in 2012, which was supposedly performing that ditch maintenance through 2017. AC Services was supposedly run by the Thomas’ son Alexander, though he told investigators he only cleared two ditches in 2012; he is not being charged with a crime.
AC Services was only in business between 2010 and 2013, but money kept rolling into AC Services’ bank account for four more years, coming from “bills” being sent from the company to King County. It’s the country’s role to collect and distribute taxpayer revenue for these drainage districts, though their oversight powers were — and remain — limited.
According to the DOJ, the money flowing into AC Services was being used for the operation of Thomas dairy farm, located east of Enumclaw off state Route 410.
Eventually, the city of Enumclaw took notice no work was being done on the 18 miles of drainage ditches DD5 is responsible for, and a police investigation was opened in 2018.
This is where City Biz comes into play; since Thomas was aware of the city’s interest in the drainage district, Allan Thomas allegedly asked Winston to come up with two bills for drainage work, one dated for Oct. 8, 2018 for around $24,000, and another for Jan. 2, 2019, for around $30,000.
According to the DOJ, when the county paid Winston, Winston deposited the money into a City Biz bank account, but “that same day, he withdrew money and purchased a cashier’s check… payable to A.T.”, court documents read, referring to Allan Thomas. That deposit would then show up in Thomas’ bank account on the same day.
Thomas resigned from his DD5 seat in May 2019; he and his wife were officially charged with mail fraud that coming September.
Winston was interviewed by the FBI on Sept. 25, 2019.
According to the DOJ, Winston said he submitted a formal bid to DD5 to win two contracts for drainage clearance work, rented equipment to perform the jobs, and spent a week on each project.
The DOJ contends Winston did not submit any bid.
“When asked whether he had paid any money to A.T. related to the form for DD5… Winston initially denied that he had paid any money to A.T. or provided any cashier’s checks to A.T.,” court documents read. “Winston subsequently stated that he might have given A.T. ‘a couple thousand dollars’ as ‘a tip’ for helping him out, but that this was not ‘a bribe.’”
Winston was then showed copies of the cashiers’ checks he made out to Allan Thomas. He then stated Thomas “paid for the equipment rental and that [Thomas] had done a lot of the work, and that that was why… Winston had paid money to [him],” documents continue.
Winston again told FBI investigators that he submitted an official bid for the projects during an Oct. 18, 2019 interview.
In that interview, he was asked why he withdrew more than $20,000 from City Biz’s bank account on July 19, 2019, the same day the FBI executed a search warrant on the Thomas’ home.
Winston initially stated that he did not recall why he withdrew that money on that day, “but later stated that he withdrew the money because unknown people had been withdrawing money from his account,” court documents read. “Winston denied that he had learned of the search, and denied that the withdrawal [was] related to the search.”
The DOJ believes Winston withdrew the money to hide it from investigators.
Charges against Winston were filed Aug. 18.