The Philadelphia Police Department on Tuesday ordered an officer accused of falsifying property records to turn in her gun and badge, a prelude to firing her, police sources said.
The order came after the department's Police Board of Inquiry found Elaine P. Thomas guilty of making false statements in multiple property transactions to avoid a 3 percent city real estate transfer tax and 1 percent state tax, the sources said.
The triallike board recommended a 30-day suspension, but Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey had final say on the punishment.
"He fired her," said Rochelle Bilal, president of the Guardian Civic League, an association of African American police officers, of which Thomas is recording secretary. "We think Ramsey has lost his mind."
The Inquirer on Dec. 2 documented how Thomas avoided property-transfer taxes on two home purchases from two women, listing both as her mother. Relatives said the women were not related to Thomas.
Thomas, a 15-year veteran of the force assigned to the 18th District in West Philadelphia, has not responded to requests for comment.
Ramsey could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The commissioner previously said the charges against Thomas included "five or six" incidents in which she is alleged to have falsely claimed that relatives were selling her properties. Family sales are exempt from transfer taxes.
Bilal and other sources said Thomas was scheduled to turn in her gun, badge, and other equipment Thursday.
Following standard procedure, the department's Internal Affairs Bureau must then officially give her a final opportunity to respond to the charges against her. She is then expected to be told she is being suspended for 30 days with the intent to dismiss, Bilal and the other sources said.
In addition to the homes from the two women, deed records show problematic documents on other transactions.
Deed records also show that Thomas did not pay transfer taxes on a deed transfer involving Eugene G. Hamilton, listed as Thomas' father. Relatives said he was not her father.
Thomas also paid no transfer taxes in the 2004 purchase of a North Philadelphia rowhouse from Christine Kibler. Kibler, who died in 2003, was listed as Thomas' sister.
In both the Kibler and Hamilton deeds, the notary has already pleaded guilty to criminal charges of forgery and conspiracy. Those forgeries were part of a criminal case against Chavon Reese, who admitted forging 21 other deeds.
In all of the cases, the deed paperwork clearly states that buyers making false statements do so "under penalties of law or ordinance."
Bilal questioned why Ramsey had taken strong action against Thomas but not similar discipline against several ranking male officers accused of more serious transgressions.
She said Thomas was accused of dodging a total of about $600 real estate transfer taxes but had paid $25,000 to $30,000 in back taxes on properties she had purchased.
Ramsey has said the investigation of Thomas' deed transfers was sent to the District Attorney's Office in 2007 to decide whether criminal charges would be sought.
The District Attorney's Office formally notified police in June that it would not prosecute Thomas, Ramsey said.
He said that while the district attorney was reviewing the case, police investigators had to wait to act.
A spokeswoman for District Attorney Seth Williams has repeatedly declined to comment on the case.