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Former Jersey City ed board president/jobs program director admits embezzling funds, wire fraud

Sudhan Thomas, the former Jersey City Board of Education president and former executive director of the city’s now-defunct jobs program, pleaded guilty Wednesday to embezzling and wire fraud, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said.

Thomas, 47, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William J. Martini to two counts of an indictment charging him with embezzling funds in 2019 from the Jersey City Employment and Training Program (JCETP), an organization that received federal funds; and wire fraud for embezzling money from his 2016 Jersey City Board of Education election campaign.

Thomas served as JCETP’s acting executive director from January 2019 until his resignation in July 2019. The program, which closed down in October, was a nonprofit organization that operated to assist Jersey City residents to prepare for and enter the workforce.

JCETP received substantial amounts of funding from federal grants from the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Using his access to JCETP funds and control of JCETP’s bank accounts, from March 2019 through July 2019, Thomas embezzled more than $45,000 from JCETP. Thomas admitted that checks drawn from JCETP accounts were made payable to others, but ultimately benefitted Thomas, to pay his debts and expenses.

He also embezzled JCETP funds by issuing JCETP checks made out to cash that Thomas either cashed himself or used to obtain bank checks that he made payable to Next Glocal, an entity for which Thomas was a director.

At the same time he was embezzling funds, he continued to make wild and false accusations of financial impropriety by the former director of the program, former Gov. Jim McGreevey.

Thomas was charged in January 2020, just two weeks after he was charged by state authorities with taking $35,000 in bribes related to his 2019 BOE reelection campaign. Those state charges are still pending.

At the time he was charged with embezzling from JCETP, authorities said Thomas used the money for personal expenses, including payments to his landlord in Jersey City and airfare and hotel expenses for a trip to Hawaii, and to fund transfers to his family’s trust account.

Thomas immediately lashed out at the charges and declares his innocence.

“I realize I am the biggest game in town for all the unearthing of financial improprieties, patronage and nepotism through my work there (over the) past three years across multiple agencies,” Thomas said in a text to NJ Advance Media. “My work at JCETP was a voluntary position with no compensation which helped put JCETP back on track.”

At the time he again accused the former governor if mismanaging the programs funds, allegations that were proven unfounded. All throughout, McGreevey maintained that the program had been audited numerous times under his watch without an issue.

In his run for a Jersey City Board of Education seat in 2016, Thomas collected campaign contributions from September to November 2016 and deposited those funds into a bank account opened for the 2016 campaign that he controlled.

Under the guise of collecting repayments for loans to the campaign or reimbursement for other purported campaign-related expenses, Thomas embezzled more than $8,000 from his 2016 campaign for his own personal use.

The embezzlement charge is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison. The wire fraud charge is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Both charges carry a maximum fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 1.

Thomas originally was charged by indictment in November 2020 with Paul Appel, 81, of Point Pleasant, who is an attorney and who also served as treasurer for Thomas’ 2016 campaign.

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