Women stole over $8 million from Sugar Land company
Ether Laver Thomas was found guilty of first-degree felony theft of property (over $200,000) and first-degree felony money laundering (over $200,000) and sentenced to 28 years prison.
The Humble woman pled guilty to the charges and sought sentencing from the court. The evidence at the sentencing hearing showed that Ether Thomas and Andrea Davidson, an accounting employee of a Sugar Land engineering company, were friends and worked together to forge checks and alter bank records to steal over $8 million from a Sugar Land company between May 2007 and April 2014. Davidson was sentenced to 28 years in prison in February 2017.
A sentencing report revealed that the 54-year-old Thomas grew up in a supportive, crime-free, married household free from abuse, illicit substances, or criminal influences – factors that some individuals attribute to predispose people to commit crimes. Despite the opportunities presented to her, the report revealed the defendant began committing crimes starting when she was 18 years old.
The first offense was a theft from her employer resulting in five-years’ probation in 1982. Thomas continued to commit crimes into her 30s and was sentenced to a six-year probation for welfare fraud in 1997. After she completed her second probation, she began working with Davidson to steal from Davidson’s employer.
Matt Cardenas, a financial crimes investigator employed by the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office, testified at the sentencing hearing that after a thorough examination of Thomas’s bank records, he found that she had no legitimate source of income and that she was unemployed during the period of the theft. Cardenas noted that Thomas’s share of the theft was $3 million and that Thomas withdrew almost $1.5 million in cash that is unaccounted for. Cardenas noted that Thomas spent nearly $1 million for personal expenses including travel, shopping, and casinos. The defense argued that Thomas spent much of the money on charity, but Cardenas found that charitable contributions were only $5,000 to $10,000 a year to a church Thomas attended.
The defense called several friends, family, and co-workers to testify on Thomas’s behalf. Most testified that Thomas was a helping and trustworthy person. Upon cross-examination from the prosecution, the witnesses stated they were unaware that Thomas had committed the theft and agreed that her crime merited some consequence.
The defense argued that Thomas deserved probation because of the charitable works she performed for the community and because she raised good children. The state argued that Thomas lived two lives: one of an upstanding citizen, and a hidden life as a thief. The state emphasized the defendant had been committing theft or fraud for most of her life and what charitable acts she did perform did not excuse her from bearing the consequences of her crimes. Presiding Judge Maggie Perez-Jaramillo of the 400th District Court agreed and sentenced Thomas to the same punishment that Andrea Davidson, Thomas’s partner in crime, received.
“Ether Thomas and Andrea Davidson were partners in crime and it is fitting that they are now partners in serving time,” said Abdul Farukhi, the lead prosecutor on the case.
Theft and money laundering in these cases are both first-degree felonies punishable by 5-99 years or life in prison and a fine up to $10,000 each. Thomas was eligible to receive probation. Assistant district attorneys Farukhi and Scott Carpenter prosecuted the case. Attorney Cheryl Coleman represented the defendant.