Brantley Thomas, ex-Berkeley CFO, stole money from special needs students, attorneys say
The Richland County Courthouse is where a man from the Lowcountry hoped for mercy.
61-year-old Brantley Thomas walked into a courtroom Thursday morning facing a long list of allegations.
“Brantley Denmark Thomas the Third,” he stated to the judge as he was sworn in.
Prosecutors gave the court lengthy details of the charges against Thomas, including embezzlement and forgery. They explained how bank documents revealed he transferred nearly $800,000 from the Berkeley County School District into his personal accounts for the past 15 years.
“I should point out that that $89,900 that ultimately was coming in. Gets washed away. That was money for special needs kids as our understanding,” said Creighton Waters, a lawyer from the state attorney general’s office.
Thomas’s defense attorney reminded the court how the school district’s former chief financial officer has been cooperative with investigators. He surrendered to state and federal authorities earlier this year, and has already paid $460,000 in restitution with plans to re-pay every penny.
“From that February meeting to this very day he’s been working as best he can to try to right the wrongs you’ve heard about,” said Leon Stavrinakis, an attorney representing Brantley Thomas in the state proceedings.
Judge Jocelyn Newman gave Thomas a $50,000 personal recognizance bond with house arrest.
“You heard he stole funds from special education children. That is pretty horrific and horrible. And the school board is absolutely grateful to the attorney general’s office to make this wrong right,” said Josh Whitley, an attorney representing the Berkeley County School District.
When asked if he had anything to say about the bond hearing or to the people of Berkeley County and the taxpayers, Thomas quietly replied, “not at this time.”
A brief remark from a disgraced public official who faces more judicial hearings.
If Brantley Thomas is convicted on all the state charges, he faces up to 135 years in prison. A conviction on the federal charges could also bring a lengthy prison sentence.