The Renton man accused of lying to investigators in the Drainage District 5 tax fraud case against locals Allen and Joann Thomas has pled guilty.
According to the Department of Justice, Darrell N. Winston made his plea on Sept. 30, and faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 18.
Winston was just one cog in the machine that allegedly allowed Allen and Joann Thomas to steal more than $460,000 from local taxpayers since 2012.
Until last year, Allen was a long-time commissioner of Drainage District 5, meaning he was responsible for making sure about 18 miles of drainage ditches around Enumclaw remained clear to control flooding.
However, around 2012, Allen allegedly stopped performing work on these ditches. Instead, he sent fake invoices to King County, which in turn sent the tax money it collected from local residents to reimburse DD5 for the “work”. The money was then used for personal use, including on the Thomas’ farm just east of Enumclaw.
The city of Enumclaw became aware no work was being done on these ditches and opened an investigation in 2017.
Aware of the investigation, the Thomases supposedly attempted to obscure their scheme by enlisting the help of Winston and his company, City Biz.
According to the DOJ, Allan 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. When King County paid Winston, he then 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 then showed up in Thomas’ bank account on the same day.
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 shown copies of the cashiers’ checks he made out to Allan Thomas. Afterwards, he 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.
The false statement charge against Winston was filed Aug. 18.
One charge of mail fraud against the Thomases was filed September 2019, but superseding charges – one count of conspiracy, four counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft and four counts of money laundering – were filed Sept. 20.