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Court Rules Thomas Must Repay $15,784

By Keith J. Winstein

NEWS EDITOR

Huanne T. Thomas ’02, The Tech’s former business manager, received six months probation and was ordered to repay MIT $15,784 at a Sept. 6 hearing in Cambridge District Court, after admitting to having used The Tech’s credit card terminal “for her own personal gain.”

The court’s ruling, which Thomas had requested and the prosecution had opposed, effectively ended her trial without a guilty plea, conviction, or sentence. Unless she violates the terms of her probation, the case against her will likely be dismissed without further proceedings, said Gerald Alves of the court clerk’s office.

It was not immediately clear how the court arrived at the figure of $15,784 for Thomas to pay restitution to MIT and The Tech. Filings in the case reference only an October 2001 incident in which Thomas transferred $1,200 from The Tech’s bank accounts, which she controlled as business manager, to her personal American Express credit card.

Thomas has also admitted writing checks to herself drawn on The Tech’s bank accounts, but the values of these checks have not been made available, nor have records of improper transactions through credit cards other than American Express.

Thomas declined to comment, and her attorney did not return calls seeking comment.

Ruling relies on COD sanction

As part of his reasoning for allowing Thomas’ request for probation without a trial and without her having pleaded guilty, District Court Justice George R. Sprague discussed a sanction already issued by the MIT Committee on Discipline.

“Sometime after she completed her course work and nothing was left but graduation, [Thomas] appeared before the MIT Disciplinary Board,” Sprague wrote, repeating the paragraph verbatim from Thomas’ request for the ruling.

“As punishment, the Board ordered that she be suspended from school for a period of seven years. During this period she cannot apply for her degree,” he wrote.

Sprague also discussed Thomas’ “sincere regret and the desire to make restitution,” writing that “When the deception was discovered and the MIT police confronted [her], she readily admitted the wrongdoing.”

MIT officials declined to discuss whether or when they expect The Tech to receive the $15,784 restitution. Assistant Dean Tracy F. Purinton referred inquiries to MIT’s Office of Insurance and Legal Affairs, which she said has been investigating the pursuit of insurance claims in The Tech’s losses, said to total approximately $50,000.

A representative of the office declined to discuss the matter. “We never publish to what extent we have insurance and the types of insurance we have,” the representative said. “We don’t want to encourage people to do things because we have insurance [or] we don’t have insurance.”

Members of The Tech’s internal investigative committee declined to comment and referred questions to the committee’s chair, Senior Editor Rima Arnaout ’02, who did not return calls seeking comment.

Winston denies knowledge of theft

Stacey Winston ’02, who was in Cambridge District Court today to remove an outstanding arrest warrant issued after she failed to appear at a previous court hearing, said in an interview that she was in no way involved in the embezzlement from The Tech’s accounts. Unlike Thomas, “I’m fighting my case,” she said.

Winston is the only person known to have been accused in court of stealing from The Tech who has not worked for the organization’s business staff. She said she did not know why Thomas had named her in a confession as one of the “others who may have charged (credited) their credit card accounts.”

Winston said a fraudulent transaction may have been funneled through her bank account, but that she had no knowledge at the time that the transaction was improper.

Rather, she said, a male member of The Tech’s staff asked her if he could move money through her bank account because of temporary problems with his own bank account. After a deposit arrived in her account, she later wrote this individual a check for the amount.

Winston declined to name the individual because, she said, he has not been accused of wrongdoing.

MIT officials declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

Richards appears, Graves missing

Jasmine Richards ’02, another former Tech business manager accused of embezzling from the organization, appeared in court on Sept. 12 to remove an outstanding arrest warrant issued essentially as a result of a court clerk’s error. Her next court appearance will be at a pre-trial hearing on Oct. 11.

Dashonn Graves ’03 remains missing with an outstanding warrant for his arrest after he failed to appear at a pre-trial hearing, according to court documents.