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United States v. Thomas

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

May 13, 2014


For Charles T Thomas, Defendant: Samuel E. Adam, Victor P. Henderson, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Mohammed Ghulam Ahmed, Rebecca Rejeanne Kaiser, Henderson Adam, LLC, Chicago, IL.

For USA, Plaintiff: Paul H. Tzur, LEAD ATTORNEY, Shoba Pillay, United States Attorney's Office (NDIL), Chicago, IL.

Page 1016


Ruben Castillo, Chief United States District Judge.

Charles T. Thomas (" Defendant" ) was charged in a one-count indictment with theft of government funds in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641. Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion to suppress statements he made to federal law enforcement officers during an interview at his home. (R. 43, Def.'s Mot.) The Court conducted an evidentiary hearing over three days. (R. 48, Min. Entry.) Defendant and his wife, Sherry Thomas, testified, along with Special Agent Mayra Colin of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (" HUD" ) and Special Agent Lee Dahlgren of the United States Department of Labor (" DOL" ), the two law enforcement officers who interviewed Defendant. In addition, the Court heard testimony from several current and former employees of the Chicago Housing Authority (" CHA" ): Cherie Strong, Assistant General Counsel in the Real Estate Division; Ellaye Accoh, an auditor in the Office of the Inspector General; and Donald Anderson, former Inspector General.

Page 1017

Roxanne Volkmann, a HUD Contract and Industrial Relations Specialist, and Dr. Carl Johnson, Defendant's treating physician, also provided testimony. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(d), the Court now states its findings of fact and conclusions of law. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is denied.


I. CHA Investigation

The CHA receives federal funding as a grantee of HUD. The CHA is responsible for maintaining all records pertaining to its use of federal funds. The CHA contracts with companies to perform its renovations of CHA properties. Defendant owns and operates Thomas Painting and Decorating. It is not clear whether Thomas Painting and Decorating contracted directly with CHA to perform renovation work or was employed through a subcontractor. Regardless, as a recipient of federal funds, Defendant was required to pay his employees according to a prevailing wage rate set by the Secretary of Labor and enforced by HUD. 42 U.S.C. § 5310. The Secretary of Labor determines the prevailing wage pursuant to the Davis-Bacon Act, 40 U.S.C. § 3141 et seq. Sometime in 2009 or 2010, the CHA Procurement Department received complaints from Thomas Painting and Decorating employees that Defendant failed to pay employees according to the prevailing wage rate and complaints that Defendant failed to pay employees at all. The CHA also received complaints from employees of property management companies associated with the CHA claiming that Defendant engaged in bid-rigging and failed to comply with the terms of contracts between Thomas Painting and Decorating and the CHA.

The CHA conducted an investigation into the complaints and performed an audit of Thomas Painting and Decorating. On or around January 7,2010, Sam Adam, Jr. notified the CHA that he was representing Defendant concerning any investigation involving him or his business. Adam provided Cherie Strong, the CHA attorney assigned to manage the investigation, with various materials the CHA had requested from Defendant, including payroll information and check stubs. Strong turned the materials over to Donald Anderson, former Inspector General of the CHA, and communicated with him regularly regarding the investigation. Anderson interviewed around 30 complainants who were former and current employees of Thomas Painting and Decorating. After the audit and interviews were completed, Anderson wrote his final report and concluded the investigation.

II. HUD Investigation

Roxanne Volkmann, Contract and Industrial Specialist at HUD, was tasked with ensuring that HUD grantees, including the CHA, complied with the prevailing wage requirements of the Davis-Beacon Act. Sometime in 2010, she received complaints by two of Defendant's employees that they were being underpaid for work on CHA projects sponsored by HUD. Volkmann contacted the CHA regarding

Page 1018

this matter because as the grantee, the CHA was responsible for maintaining all documentation on its HUD-subsidized projects. Volkmann requested that the CHA send to HUD any paperwork and copies of payroll information pertaining to Thomas Painting and Decorating. Anderson turned over all records, files, tapes and other materials he had accumulated in his investigation to Brad Geary, an Assistant Special Agent in charge of HUD's Office of the Inspector General. Anderson, along with his senior auditor, Ellaye Accoh, met with Geary to brief him on the CHA's investigation. Special Agent Mayra Colin also worked in HUD's Office of the Inspector General and investigated allegations of fraud and abuse in HUD-related programs. In November 2010, Special Agent Colin began her investigation of Defendant by conducting a background check on Defendant. She was assisted in her investigation by Special Agent Lee Dahlgren of the DOL. Colin and Dahlgren interviewed Defendant on June 5, 2012, at his home in South Holland, Illinois.[2]

III. Defendant's Surgery

Eleven days before Defendant's interview, on May 25, 2012, Defendant underwent surgery to repair two hernias and remove a moderate-sized mass from his chest. Dr. Carl Johnson performed the nearly two-hour surgery, which involved placing Defendant under anesthesia, and he sent Defendant home after the surgery was complete. Dr. Johnson prescribed Defendant 30 five-milligram tablets of Norco, a pain relief medication milder than Vicodin but stronger than Tylenol with codeine, and instructed him to take one or two tablets every four hours. Side effects from the medication include drowsiness, constipation, dizziness, and fatigue. Potential complications from chest surgery include bleeding and infection, which usually causes redness in the chest area, fever, chills, and drainage. Potential complications from hernia surgery include difficulty urinating and passing bowels, dehydration, listlessness, ...

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