Federal Charges Dropped, Hmong Leader returns to HUD

July 10, 2009 11:50:17 PM PDT
Tuolo Thao was arrested, lost his job, and went bankrupt but now he's a happy man, because the federal case against him has been dismissed and he gets his job back."If you had a nightmare, you wake up and its gone. This is real nightmare it doesn't go away." Thao said.

His nightmare started when he was arrested at the Federal Office of Housing and Urban Development, where he'd worked for 8 years.

His attorney, Jeff Hammerschmidt described the scene: "At gunpoint Dr. Thao was arrested by five US Marshall's at the HUD office for filling out a government form wrong." But, Hammerschmidt notes after a five year investigation, the government's claim was wrong. "In the end it turned out he filled out the form perfectly." He said.

Prosecutors generated nine thousand pages of documents in trying to make their case. The claim was Thao failed to disclose to the government that he had managed a nonprofit agency that contracted with the Federal Government, and that he failed to disclose he received five thousand dollars in government funds. Thao's attorney, Jeff Hammerschmidt is pleased the government's case was defeated. "Definitely, but mainly we're relieved that Dr. Thao has been vindicated all charges have been dismissed." He said.

Hammerschmidt blames a former supervisor in the HUD office for the allegations, but the current manager says Thao will be welcomed back on Monday morning.

Thao says he's thrilled. "I feel like I'm reborn again, and new chance at my life and feel very energetic about it. I look forward to going back to work and continuing doing what I was supposed to be doing."

While Thao gets his job back, the issue of back pay has not been addressed. While the case against him was dismissed, Thao had to "acknowledge responsibility for his actions" and perform community service. But he did not admit to any wrongdoing and his attorney says a discrimination suit against the federal government is now expected to be filed. Federal prosecutors are not commenting.

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