A Renton man involved in a scheme that allowed two Enumclaw residents to allegedly steal more than $460,000 from local taxpayers has been sentenced to probation, home detention, and community service.
U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones rendered his judgement against Darrel N. Winston on Feb. 19.
According to a Department of Justice press release, Jones said Winston — who pled guilty to lying to investigators late September 2020 — showed no respect for the law; “on these occasions to break the chain of multiple lies, you chose not to do so.”
Here’s a quick recap of the fraud scheme, and how Winston became involved:
The main characters of this saga are Allan and his wife, Joanne Thomas. Allan Thomas spent 35 years as a commissioner for Drainage District 5, charged with maintaining about 18 miles of drainage ditches in and around Enumclaw.
But in recent years, it appears that instead of using local taxpayer dollars to do that maintenance, the Thomases allegedly sent fake work invoices to King County and pocketed the money. Much of the money was allegedly used on their farm, which resides just east of Enumclaw on SR 410.
The city of Enumclaw became suspicious of Thomas when it noticed no work was being done on the ditches, and a police investigation was opened in 2018.
Aware of the investigation, Thomas allegedly hired Winston and his Renton-based business, City Biz, to seemingly add some authenticity to the work invoices being sent to the county.
Winston came 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 King County paid Winston for that “work”, Winston deposited the money into a City Biz bank account. However, “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.
Winston was interviewed by the FBI in September 2019, where he told investigators he submitted formal bids for that ditch work; the DOJ contended Winston did not submit any bid.
Additionally, “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 another interview in October 2019.
Charges against Winston were filed Aug. 18, 2020.
His full sentence is three years of probation, including six months of home detention with electronic monitoring, and 40 hours of community service.
The Thomases have yet to have their day in court, which is scheduled for April 26. They’re currently charged with 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.