The News Star, thenewsstar.com
BYLINE: Barbara Leader
Faces drug, fraud charges
A trial date was set for a former Louisiana state trooper after 4th Judicial District Court Judge Benjamin Jones determined Thursday there is probable cause to proceed.
Former Trooper Ronald Thomas was in court Thursday for a preliminary examination before his upcoming trial on payroll fraud, malfeasance in office and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
At the time of his arrest, Superintendent of State Police Mike Edmondson said information during the course of another investigation suggested Thomas might have been involved in illegal activity.
Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Geary Aycock presented evidence he said proves Thomas’s involvement and more.
Aycock and a state trooper who served as a witness for the prosecution said state police used a tracking device on Thomas’s police vehicle to document his movements, the time he was at work, and activities they believe show he was conspiring with Leonard Dunn, 38, of Holiday Lane in Monroe, to sell cocaine that was reportedly obtained from the state police evidence room.
Before his arrest on March 19, Thomas was assigned as the evidence custodian for northern Louisiana investigative operations. The former sergeant is an 18-year veteran of the state police.
Among evidence introduced were documents the prosecution believes indicate Thomas defrauded the state of more than $14,000 by reporting 398 hours of work for time he was not actually at work.
State Trooper Robert Lewis told the court that much of that time was spent either at Thomas’ home, in area businesses or with women other than his wife, one of whom he met in a secluded wooded area where police later recovered wet towels and a disposed condom.
The prosecution also presented evidence of multiple cash deposits, unrelated to either his or his wife’s payroll, by Thomas in two area financial institution totaling more than $150,000.
Lewis also described videotapes of Thomas at work, including reportedly removing cocaine from the police evidence vault and later counting cash at his desk.
According to police, after months of accumulating evidence, troopers moved quickly to make arrests. Troopers executed a search warrant and seized nearly $50,000 in cash and a stolen weapon. Other items seized included a Chevrolet Tahoe, a Ford F-250, a Skeeter ZX190 boat, three four-wheelers and a utility task vehicle.
Investigators also arrested Leonard Dunn, 38, of 78 Holiday Lane, Monroe in connection with the case. Dunn was charged with three counts of distribution of marijuana and one count of distribution of Hydrocodone.
Troopers said Thomas conspired with Dunn to sell large quantities of cocaine in northeastern Louisiana, reportedly made attempts to warn Dunn he was being investigated and instructed Dunn to destroy evidence and dispose of money.
“This was a preliminary hearing,” Thomas’ attorney Charles Kincade said. “We weren’t particularly surprised by the evidence or the judge finding probable cause.”
Thomas’ trial is set to begin June 16.
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