Criminal charges filed against former director for misuse of funds

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OH (WOIO) - A criminal information was filed Thursday charging the former executive director of the Flats Oxbow Association with stealing more than $580,000 from the organization, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Cleveland office.

Thomas L. Newman was charged in a two-count information with theft and embezzlement in federally funded programs and money laundering.

He is accused of illegally taking $583,570 in Flats Oxbow Association funds for his personal use, according to the information.

Newman, age 65, lives in Cleveland, according to court records.

"This defendant is accused of taking more than half a million dollars from an organization that was trying to improve our city," Dettelbach said.

"We will continue to root out public corruption and misuse of tax dollars in all its forms," Anthony said.

The Flats Oxbow Association (FOA) was a non-profit organization that was supposed to represent the interests of businesses and residents of the Flats neighborhood in Cleveland.

Between 2006 and 2011, the FOA received $393,758 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through Community Block Grants administered by the City of Cleveland, according to the information.

Newman was appointed executive director of the FOA in 2006 and reported to the FOA's Board of Trustees. Newman's job included soliciting donations for the organization, collecting dues from members and origination, maintenance and retention of all financial records, according to the information.

He was paid an annual salary of approximately $50,000 for this job, according to the information.

Count One charges that from 2006 through on or about March 31, 2011, Newman knowingly wrote numerous checks from the FOA payable to cash for his personal use. He also used FOA credit cards to purchase materials for the renovation of the property at 1250 Riverbed Street, in which his wife has a personal interest and FOA had no interest, according to the information.

Count Two charges that Newman tried to conceal and disguise the nature of the aforementioned FOA check payments and credit card transactions.

If convicted, the defendants' sentence will be determined by the court after a review of factors unique to this case, including the defendants' prior criminal record, if any, the defendants' roles in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. The sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases will be less than the maximum.

This case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Vasile C. Katsaros following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

An information is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.