Jim McElhatton, Washington Times, December 23, 2014
Brian Thompson had a criminal record spanning more than two decades, but that didn’t stop him from getting an office job at the Department of Housing and Urban Development earning nearly $90,000 per year.
His extensive criminal history only came to light in recent days after federal prosecutors outlined convictions and charges of armed robbery, theft and larceny against Thompson, who now faces federal prison time for embezzling more than $800,000 from HUD during his short stint as a federal worker.
Now HUD officials are scrambling to figure out how he landed his job, which he was allowed to resign nearly two months after his embezzlement conviction.
“We are reviewing the portion of the Personal Identity Verification (PIV) process that HUD controls to understand why there were no background flags,” agency spokesman Jereon M. Brown wrote in an email Tuesday. “Something should have definitely come up during the background check.”
The U.S. attorney’s office in Washington filed a sentencing memo in Thompson’s case this week outlining theft and larceny arrests and convictions spanning from 1984 to 2007. He also had an armed robbery conviction in 1980 that resulted in probation; a 1998 misdemeanor conviction for check deception; a felony 2008 conviction for receiving stolen property; and probation violation reports filed in 1999, 2000 and 2001, according to prosecutors.
Yet HUD hired him as a GS-13 loan guarantee specialist within the Office of Public and Indian Housing at HUD on May 23, 2011.
He resigned on Nov. 20, which was nearly two months after he pleaded guilty to wire fraud in federal court in Washington. The U.S. attorney, Ron Machen, issued a press release at the time calling Thompson “a crooked HUD employee” who “diverted the proceeds of real estate sales from the U.S. Treasury to his own pockets through lies and trickery.”
While the press release referred to Thompson as a former federal employee, he wouldn’t resign for weeks, though Mr. Brown said in a statement Tuesday that Thompson was suspended without pay prior to his resignation.
An attorney for Thompson said neither he nor his client would comment when reached by The Washington Times.
Thompson faces between 33 to 41 months in prison under federal guidelines when he’s sentenced next month.
At HUD he had little oversight in a job that required him to sell off HUD-owned properties for the best deal possible on behalf of taxpayers.
“The defendant held almost complete discretion,” assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Cheatham wrote in a court filing, describing a job in which neither his supervisor nor escrow agents questioned Thompson or asked for backup documents.
From June 2013 to March 2014, he skimmed $843,000 in sales process on five HUD-owned properties by ordering escrow agents to send money to back accounts that he controlled, according to Ms. Cheatham.
But things began to unravel soon after a deal for a property fell through. Coworkers became concerned that Thompson was trying to justify a “rock bottom” price by producing pictures of mold purportedly found at the HUD-owned Florida property, according to prosecutors.
Coworkers, though, found it was a photo from the Internet, easily located by searching for the word “mold,” the memo said.
In Thompson’s old office at the Office of Public and Indian Housing, another employee was recently the subject of an unrelated misconduct probe.
In that case, a program analyst, whom the Times identified as J’Vaughn Hawkins, was suspended for a month after investigators found he was using his HUD-owned email account to refer tenants to landlords for a cut of the first month’s rent.
The inspector general’s office also found emails in his work account about non-HUD business ventures, including messages about landscaping, chauffeuring and one email in which he offered to provide women to serve drinks and provide lap dances during a boxing match.