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MACON, Ga. – The former payroll clerk for the Milledgeville Housing Authority (MHA) has admitted she stole $575,000 by overpaying herself and entered a guilty plea in federal court today for her crime.

Jennifer Kay Smith, 49, of Eatonton, Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count of federal program theft before U.S. District Senior Judge Marc Treadwell today. Smith faces a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentencing will be set by the Court. The defendant is not eligible for parole.

“Stealing taxpayer dollars is a crime that both erodes public trust and harms the affected federal program,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “Our office will hold accountable government employees who take advantage of their positions to commit theft or other crimes.”

"Safeguarding taxpayer funded programs and resources that benefit low-income families in our communities is vital to the success of HUD’s programs,” said Special Agent in Charge, Jerome Winkle with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Inspector General (OIG). “HUD OIG remains steadfast in its commitment to work closely with federal prosecutors and law enforcement agencies and state and local partners to aggressively investigate those who threaten HUD programs.”

According to court documents, Smith was the employee in charge of payroll with the MHA, a public housing authority mostly funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A coworker discovered that Smith had been stealing money from MHA since Jan. 2021. Smith would record her normal time in payroll, then add vacation and sick leave time on top of that so she was being paid for more than 40 hours per week. No one at MHA checked her work. Smith paid herself more than $40,000 above her regular salary in 2021 and more than $500,000 above her regular salary between Jan. 1 and Aug. 11, 2022. In total, Smith stole $575,014.50. During her interview with investigators, Smith said, “I messed up, I know I messed up.”

The case was investigated by the Milledgeville Police Department, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Secret Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Deitrick is prosecuting the case for the government