Former DC government staffer pleads guilty to stealing over $350K from city

A former District employee has pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud after stealing more than $350,000 from a D.C. program she once benefited from.

Authorities said 52-year-old Rhayda Barnes Thomas, of D.C., embezzled funds while working with the D.C. Department of Employment Services’ Project Empowerment Program (PEP) between 2015 and 2018.

She previously pleaded guilty in an unrelated 2011 case of theft from a federal government program.

Barnes Thomas was a beneficiary of that program and was ultimately hired in early 2014, according to the Justice Department.

The PEP aims to help unemployed residents facing challenges, such as homelessness, substance abuse and previous incarceration with subsidized employment opportunities.

From May 2015 through April 2018, prosecutors said Barnes Thomas manipulated PEP’s database, fraudulently indicating employment for 16 former participants at a nonprofit organization. She also ordered replacement and new prepaid debit cards, controlling the funds loaded onto them by the D.C. government.

Barnes Thomas became a PEP participant in 2013, after serving a 27-month prison sentence. In 2011, she was convicted in Maryland federal court for theft involving a federal government program tied to a scheme to use federal funds received by her then-employer, Charles County Public Schools, to buy technology for herself, her family, and friends.

As part of Wednesday’s plea agreement, she agreed to pay restitution of at least $354,000, and to be liable for a forfeiture money judgment totaling $318,413, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Barnes Thomas is scheduled for sentencing on Aug. 16.

Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up