A former financial official with the Berkeley County School District lengthened his prison sentence after pleading guilty to state corruption charges.
Brantley Denmark Thomas III, 62, pleaded guilty to all 35 State Grand Jury charges of public corruption, the Attorney General’s Office announced Friday evening.
According to the attorney general, Thomas admitted in state circuit court to embezzlement, forgery, misconduct, breach of trust and money laundering in connection with the theft of more than $900,000 in school district funds and more than $36,000 from a private business.
The amount of Thomas’ financial crimes was uncovered in an investigation by the South Carolina State Grand Jury, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and FBI. The federal investigation found another $382,000 stolen from the school district.
In total Thomas took $1,321,906.55, according to the attorney general.
South Carolina circuit court Judge Deadra Jefferson sentenced Thomas to 11 years in prison and forced his state retirement benefits to be paid to Berkeley’s school district until it is made whole.
Thomas will play restitution for the money he took, the attorney general’s statement said. In February 2018, Thomas pleaded guilty to similar but separate charges in federal court.
In an embezzlement scheme “from at least 2010 to December 2016,” Thomas stole the school district’s money, The State reported. He used the money for “personal travel, jewelry and private club membership,” according to a February news release from the office of U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray.
Murray said one of the many ways Thomas embezzled money was by overpaying school district vendors and taking the refund checks for his own purposes.
Court records showed that in addition to the stolen funds, Thomas received “at least $32,000 in bribes and kickbacks” for providing millions of dollars of business from the school district to an insurance broker.
In February U.S. District Judge David C. Norton sentenced Thomas to 63 months (more than 5 years) in prison for his federal charges.
Thomas’ state sentence runs concurrent to his federal punishment, meaning after 63 months in federal prison he will be transferred to a South Carolina Department of Corrections facility to serve another approximate six years.
After Thomas’ release he will be under court supervision for three years.