Kountze Man Pleads Guilty in Fraud Case - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Kountze Man Pleads Guilty in Fraud Case

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BEAUMONT (KYTX)– A 53-year-old Kountze, Texas man has pleaded guilty in connection with his role in theft of government property, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today. 

Tony Lynn Thornton, Sr. pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with theft of government property of a value of less than $1000 today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Giblin.

According to information presented in court, in August 2007, Thornton was the executive director and also served as a member of the board of directors of the Hardin County Disaster Recovery Alliance (HCDRA), a non-profit organization chartered by the State of Texas. 

HCDRA's main function and purpose was to operate exclusively for charitable, educational, and faith-based purposes, including but not limited to improvement of the condition of victims of Hurricane Rita, giving priority to the elderly, the disabled, the poor and the underprivileged. 

Thornton controlled and operated the HCDRA residential repair and renovation program.  As part of his duties, Thornton selected contractors that were used to repair hurricane damaged homes in Hardin, Jefferson, and Orange Counties. 

Thornton was to secure the payment for the contractors after each repair job was finished, and inspect and verity that the work was completed.  Thornton maintained control over the HCDRA checking account, often writing and signing checks to pay HCDRA vendors and contractors.  

On or about May 5, 2007, Thornton's wife incurred a charge on her personal Citi Bank Advantage Credit card in the amount of $627.83.  On May 15, 2007, Thornton wrote a check made out to "City Master Carpenters" on the HCDRA checking account.  He then signed the check on behalf of HCDRA. 

The check was then sent, along with a copy of Thornton's wife's credit card statement to Citi Bank where the HCDRA check was processed and her account credited in the amount of the check. 

Thornton knew that the charge was not made for the benefit of HCDRA, and he intended to convert the funds for his own use or that of another to pay off the outstanding credit card debt, without the authority of the HCDRA. 

Thornton faces up to one year in federal prison, a fine not to exceed $100,000.00 and restitution.  A date for sentencing has not yet been set.

The case is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Batte. 

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