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Mark Thomas Pleads Guilty to Federal Mail Fraud; Resigns From St. Clairsville Council


COLUMBUS — Mark Thomas pleaded guilty to federal mail fraud during a change-of-plea hearing Monday afternoon.

Thomas then submitted a letter of resignation from his post on St. Clairsville City Council to the city office.

He faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years and a fine of $250,000. Included in the plea agreement was restitution of at least $882,502.

“I understand it completely and I agree with it,” Thomas said when he and his attorney, Andy Avellano, appeared before Judge Algenon Marbley of the U.S. District Southern District of Ohio and heard the possible sentence.

Thomas, 62, is a former Belmont County commissioner and a former attorney. He was accused of four counts of federal mail fraud related to his now-defunct legal practice. It was alleged he abused his power of attorney for an elderly client with dementia and stole more than $500,000 from her.

Thomas pleaded guilty to one charge and the other three were dismissed. The initial indictment was made by a federal grand jury in October. It alleges Thomas defrauded a client from 2012 through August 2019 while serving as her power of attorney. He was accused of taking the victim’s money without her knowledge or permission and using it for his own benefit. The client was 85 when the offenses allegedly began.

The indictment states that Thomas improperly used the victim’s power of attorney and his status as a lawyer — even after his law license was revoked in 2015 — to convince various entities, including banks and life insurance companies, to transfer the victim’s money for his use.

In 2019, after his term as a county commissioner had ended in December 2018, Thomas was sentenced to 30 days in jail for contempt of a county court for failing to comply with a court order to turn over documents from his private law practice related to an elderly client’s power of attorney. He later complied with the records request and a lawsuit related to that case was dismissed.

The fraud charges and contempt charge had no connection to Thomas’ role as an elected official.

In 2015, the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct in Columbus suspended Thomas’ law license in Ohio after he reportedly failed to file an answer to a formal complaint pending before the board. His law license remains suspended in Ohio and West Virginia.

On Nov. 2, Thomas was elected 3rd Ward councilman for the city of St. Clairsville after he ran for the office unopposed. Since taking office, Thomas has been active in several projects, including an initiative to update the city charter and suggestions to pursue available federal funding.

Following the guilty plea, Thomas submitted a letter of resignation from his post as a councilman.

“I have lived here for 54 years and my love for the city is beyond words. I ran for office last year for I felt I could amicably work with all of you and play a very small part in helping Saint Clairsville prosper and grow. While my service has been short, I am elated that we have a council that is professional, courteous to each other and truly has the city’s best interest at heart.

“I implore all of you to please keep the lines of communication open, at all times, and work as one cohesive body to serve our residents to the best of your abilities. While there are many present challenges facing the city, I too encourage you to always look to the future to insure we take advantage of all the current and future opportunities that will help St. Clairsville shine with each day. … I trust you will begin the immediate process of appointing my successor. I wish all of you much success.”


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