Sexual bribery suspect no longer Merced County employee

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 14, 2014 

A Merced County employee arrested earlier this week in a sexual bribery case is no longer employed by the county, officials confirmed Friday.

Anthony J. Thompson, a collections supervisor for the Department of Revenue and Reimbursement, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of bribery after a three-week investigation by the Merced County Sheriff’s Department.

County spokesman Mike North told the Sun-Star Friday that Thompson is no longer a county employee. “At this point, I really can’t say anything as far as why he’s no longer employed,” North said.

The Sun-Star has also learned that Thompson operated two homes providing transitional housing to homeless veterans. Thompson was paid $55 per night for each veteran by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, officials said.

The veterans could stay in Thompson’s homes for a maximum of 120 days until they found permanent housing.

Eight veterans were living in the two homes, located at 2713 Lexington Ave. in Merced and 3545 W. Michigan Ave. in Fresno. They were given the option of moving out by VA officials Friday.

VA officials said Thompson’s contract, which was funded through Fresno-based Healthcare for Homeless Veterans, is being scrutinized.

“At this time, the contract has not been pulled, but it is under review,” said Sheryl Grubb, public affairs chief with VA Central California. “Until the review is complete we won’t place any veterans in the homes.”

Grubb said the VA gave the eight veterans the voluntary option to move out when the allegations about Thompson surfaced in the Sun-Star. As of Friday, seven veterans had accepted the offer and were transferred out of Thompson’s homes.

The one veteran who stayed behind was Jim Dwyer, who said he stayed because of a doctor appointment in Merced. Grubb said the VA would offer him assistance when he’s ready to relocate.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” Dwyer said, standing outside the Merced home on Friday. The Oregon native said he might head back to his home state. “He’s not convicted of anything so why are they kicking us out of here?” Dwyer said of Thompson.

A Marine veteran, Dwyer said Friday he’s worried because Thompson asked for his Social Security number when he applied for housing. “If the VA only needs the last four digits, why does this guy need the full (number)?” he said. “This guy’s been doing fishy stuff from what I’ve heard.”

Steve Clark, house manager in the Merced home, said the news of Thompson’s arrest came as a big surprise. Clark said he’s never been mistreated by Thompson. “I had a place to live. I was happy with that,” he said of Thompson. “He was a good man to me. He took care of me.”

Clark said he didn’t know what he would do next. “I’m not sure yet,” the Navy veteran said. “I have to call my lawyers.”

Multiple county employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to protect their jobs, said Thompson was offered a retirement package Friday. County officials did not confirm that had happened, however. The employees said Treasurer-Tax Collector Karen Adams, Thompson’s supervisor, told staff Thursday afternoon that Thompson would be “officially retired” as of Friday.

Thompson hung up the phone when asked for comment Friday.

Merced County detectives believe Thompson, who’s been a Merced County employee since May 4, 1987, promised to manipulate the amount of money one woman’s son owed the county in exchange for “sexual favors” and “dates.”

Thompson is scheduled to appear in Merced County Superior Court on March 11 for his arraignment hearing.

Deputies are asking anyone with information about the case to contact Detective Aaron Rosenberg at the Merced County Sheriff’s Department at (209) 385-7444.

Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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