Who are Allan and Joann Thomas — conspirators who used fake invoices, forged signatures, and lax county oversight to allegedly steal more than $450,000 from Enumclaw taxpayers? Or hard-working, albeit techno-illiterate, farmers caught in the crosshairs of greedy land developers?
A jury just decided the former.
The Enumclaw couple were 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 in 2020 after a lengthy investigation that started in Enumclaw, but spiraled out to King County, the Washington State Auditor’s Office, and finally, the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Enumclaw Courier-Herald has detailed how the investigation unfolded in numerous articles leading up to the trial. Allan Thomas, as a commissioner of a special taxing district called Drainage District 5 (DD5), and his wife Joann, allegedly sent fake invoices to King County for work that was never done between at least 2012 and 2019; instead, they pocketed those taxpayer dollars to pay bills and property taxes on Thomas Dairy, located on the east side of Enumclaw on state Route 410.
Closing arguments began May 18, and wrapped up by noon the following day.
The verdict was read at 4:30 p.m. after mere hours of debate, finding Joann Thomas guilty of all charges, and her husband guilty of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and one count of identity theft; he was found not guilty of the second count of identity theft, nor money laundering.
Sentencing was scheduled for Sept. 23 at 9 a.m.
Both Allan and Joann declined to comment; Allan’s attorney, John Henry Browne, only stated that this was a “weird verdict,” and Joann’s attorney, Terrence Kellogg, said they were “deeply disappointed.”
The U.S. government, represented by Andrew Friedman in its closing arguments, needed to prove that the Thomases not only committed the crimes they were accused of, but also that they knowingly committed those crimes — key for convictions of wire and mail fraud.
To convince the jury, the DOJ showcased several signatures that were allegedly forged, allegedly fraudulent DD5 meeting minutes, and, possibly most damning of all, the flow of money from King County into the Thomas’ personal and business bank accounts.
Witness testimony, according to Friedman, showed there was work done on the DD5 ditches before 2012 — but little, if any, was performed for the next five years.
It was around 2012 when Alex Thomas, Allan’s son from a prior marriage, and Joann opened AC Services as a business that would do the ditch clearing for DD5.
Alex, on the witness stand, told the court that he did only a couple of jobs in 2012. But invoices sent to King County, claiming AC Services was doing work on ditches, continued through 2017.
Not only did Alex claim he didn’t do the work, but he also testified he left the farm between 2014 and 2016 to join the armed services, so he wasn’t even around to do the work.
There were 36 such invoices, Friedman said, totaling for more than $400,000.
On those invoices were two signatures: Allan’s, and that of Ken Olson, a second DD5 commissioner.
But Olson testified he never signed those vouchers.
Friedman said it appeared these vouchers were created long after AC Services supposedly did ditch work, as the only evidence the FBI found of the vouchers existing were in a Public Disclosure Request made in 2017 for those documents, and not in any emails sent to King County when money was being requested.
Even the contract between DD5 and AC Services was fraudulent, Friedman said; a signature on one copy of the contract was from one Joann Copeland (her maiden name), rather than Alex, who supposedly ran the business.
Another copy of the contract was signed by Marjorie Miller, Joann’s mother, who had no connection with AC Services beyond the fact that the business was allegedly run out of her home, which Friedman claimed was never the case.
Friedman also showed the jury two checks, supposedly made out by Alex, taking money from the AC Services business bank account to give to the Thomases.
However, his signature was allegedly forged by Joann Thomas — to make this point, Friedman compared Alex’s supposed signature to Joann’s, showing that “Thomas” was written out in both cases almost identically. As for the money, Friedman showed that when large amounts of money were deposited into AC Service’s bank account, it would quickly be moved elsewhere; either into the Thomas’ personal accounts, or withdrawn by Joann (either using her real signature, or forging her son’s).
The money would then go to various places; $18,000 to Quality Hay Company for cow feed, for example, and another $13,000 to Craft3, which appears to be a non-bank home and business loan lender located in Seattle.
By the end of his closing argument, Friedman addressed the defense’s claim that the Thomases didn’t conspire to commit crimes, but other parties, namely Enumclaw City Attorney Mike Reynolds, worked to frame the Thomases as criminals to take their 155 acre-plus farm.
He said the defense has provided no evidence of those claims — only speculation.
Allan and Joann, represented by John Henry Browne and Terrence Kellogg respectively, continued to argue that the only reason their clients were sitting in the defendant’s seats was because of a conspiracy by Reynolds and other city officials, who wanted the city of Enumclaw to obtain the farm for the city’s gain.
Kellogg, who opened first, said work on DD5 ditches was in fact completed, and AC Services was properly reimbursed by King County.
This is in contrast to several witness testimonies, including current DD5 Commissioner Alan Predmore, who testified that when he was appointed to the position in 2019, the drainage district needed to do work on “practically everything,” Friedman said.
But the main point Kellogg made was that Allan and Joann were hardworking farmers who live an extremely busy life — “old school,” he said — who never had any intent to break the law, or any knowledge that they had, even if they did.
He called the government’s arguments “all flash, no fire.”
For example, Kellogg noted Joann’s testimony that, at the time the AC Services contact was being made, that she was preparing many medical documents for her mother, who was in poor health, and she must have accidentally given the contract to her to sign — hence Marjorie’s name on the contract.
Joann also said that she’s been a Copeland, not a Thomas, for most of her life, which is why she occasionally reverts back to signing her name as “Joann Copeland” — a trick of the brain, and not evidence of fraud or deception.
Bad bookkeeping, Kellogg said, is not a crime; “These folks are maybe not perfect,” but they were doing “the best they could.”
Kellogg also attempted to convince the jury that Reynolds, along with Alex and his birthmother, Pepe Terou, an Enumclaw resident, worked together to frame the Thomases. He admitted that he had no proof of this conspiracy — after all, he said, he doesn’t have the same power or resources of the federal government — but that bad blood that already existed between those parties and the Thomases should give credence to the theory, enough to cast reasonable doubt on the government’s case.
Browne argued much of the same, urging the jury to keep in mind the “cloak of innocence” that surrounds U.S. citizens, and asking them to not presume that just because the Thomases were in the defendant’s chair that they were guilty.
“Making a mistake is not a crime,” he said.
Browne cast doubt on the government’s case by noting not who the DOJ brought to the stand as a witness, but who wasn’t brought. This includes the Enumclaw detective who initially investigated the Thomases after Reynolds alerted her to possible wrongdoing; Darrel Winston, owner of CityBiz, who supposedly performed work on ditches in 2018 and possibly 2019; and a handwriting expert to compare Joann’s signature to the supposed signature of Alex.
He also pointed out the Thomases did several things during the investigation that showed they were innocent, including voluntarily meeting with the state Auditor (which ultimately concluded taxpayer money was misused by the Thomases), and admitting in testimony that they made mistakes while running the drainage district.
That’s how you know Allan and Joann were telling the truth, he said — because they admitted to actions that don’t make them look good.
Browne also furthered the idea that this was all the doing of Reynolds et al., and that Reynolds used the media, namely King 5 and Chris Ingalls, who broke this story, to legitimize the investigation into the Thomases.
“Fake news,” he said, adding that the use of the phrase was not an “endorsement.”
In closing, he asked the jury to not give in to the “awesome power” of the government.
“Which side are you on?” he said, quoting a song written by a relative of his. “Are you a fool of the government, or have you had it with government power?”