- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2023

A former D.C. government employee was sentenced to four years in prison Wednesday for defrauding a city Department of Employment Services program of over $350,000.

Rhayda Barnes Thomas, 52, was sentenced to four years in prison, ordered to pay $356,110.64 in restitution, ordered to forfeit another $318,415, and given both three years of parole and 360 hours of community service to fulfill after her prison sentence ends, according to a Justice Department release.

Barnes Thomas was an employee of the DOES Project Empowerment Program, which provides help finding a job to those with barriers to employment, such as felons and drug addicts. She was hired there in 2014 after serving an earlier prison term for defrauding another former employer, the Charles County, Maryland, school system.

From May 2015 through April 2018, Barnes Thomas used the revived profiles of 16 former Project Empowerment participants and modified a database to make it appear as if they were working for a nonprofit organization. She also impersonated a former employee of the nonprofit to approve the work hours she had entered in the program database.

As part of the scheme, Barnes Thomas ordered replacement debit cards to hold the funds of the fraudulently revived program profiles. The D.C. government then requested funds be put on the cards, which were controlled by Barnes Thomas.

She was indicted in September and pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud on May 17.

• Brad Matthews can be reached at bmatthews@washingtontimes.com.

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