Former SFPUC supervisor pleads guilty to embezzling city money 

click to enlarge Donnie Thomas, 47, pleaded guilty to embezzling $319,000 from San Francisco between 2003 and 2007. - DONNIE THOMAS, 47, PLEADED GUILTY TO EMBEZZLING $319,000 FROM SAN FRANCISCO BETWEEN 2003 AND 2007.
  • Donnie Thomas, 47, pleaded guilty to embezzling $319,000 from San Francisco between 2003 and 2007.
  • Donnie Thomas, 47, pleaded guilty to embezzling $319,000 from San Francisco between 2003 and 2007.

The supervisor of a work crew for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission pleaded guilty Monday to charges that he embezzled $319,000 of city money between 2003 and 2007, District Attorney George Gascon announced Monday.

Donnie Alan Thomas, 47, was convicted of four felony counts -- forging requests for payment, presenting fraudulent claims to The City, embezzlement, and making a false statement for the purpose of reducing premiums, rates or cost of worker's compensation insurance -- and a misdemeanor count of failing to file a return.

Thomas supervised a SFPUC Hetch Hetchy high-voltage power crew based on Treasure Island that worked on private electrical contracts through his company Tri Delta Electric Inc. while on SFPUC time, prosecutors said.

Thomas and the crew also used city money to buy goods for their personal use -- such as cellphones, stereos and sunglasses -- and equipment for the company.

The items were bought through two city-approved vendors, two employees of whom were also charged in the case.

"This is really a case of classic public corruption," Gascon said at a news conference at the Hall of Justice on Monday. "This was city employees working in conjunction with local businesses and they were defrauding The City and stealing the taxpayers' money."

A whistleblower eventually reported the case in 2007 and the five SFPUC employees involved were either fired or resigned.

Thomas and his cohorts were later arrested in 2009 after then-District Attorney Kamala Harris charged them in connection with the case.

SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington, who did not oversee the agency when the crimes occurred, said they happened under "less than adequate supervision," and that the commission has taken steps to ensure similar crimes do not happen again in the future.

Four other defendants involved in the scam -- John Rauch, Robert Mazariegos, Vincent Padilla and Centennial Distributors Inc. -- have already pleaded guilty, while five other co-defendants still have charges pending.

In exchange for his plea, Thomas has agreed to a sentence of three years in state prison, and has been ordered to pay the $319,000 in restitution to the SFPUC, as well as more than $109,000 to the State Compensation Insurance Fund and more than $59,000 to the state's Employment Development Department.

The sentencing is scheduled to take place on Nov. 10.

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