A former MARTA department administrator has been charged with participating in a false-invoice scheme that resulted in the public transit service paying for more than $500,000 of maintenance work that was never performed, authorities said Thursday.
Jhonnita Williams, 47, of Atlanta, faces seven counts of conspiratorial and substantive federal program theft, mail fraud and false statements on a loan application, U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said in a news release.
“For years, Williams allegedly betrayed her employer and exploited her position of trust at MARTA, resulting in a massive theft of taxpayer money,” Pak said.
Williams worked for MARTA from 1999 to 2017. From about June 2010 to December 2017, she allegedly had numerous fake invoices prepared on behalf of three vendors for MARTA maintenance projects where no work was done, Pak said.
Joseph Erves, MARTA’s senior director of operations at the time, pleaded guilty to being involved in the same scheme and was sentenced to 33 months in prison in January.
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Williams and Erves allegedly used the false invoices to authorize payments to the three vendors, including a business owned by Ferrell Williams, who was romantically involved with Jhonnita Williams, Pak said.
Ferrell Williams, 63, of Cincinnati, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit federal program theft in March. His sentencing is scheduled for next week, Pak said.
After the vendors were paid, a portion of the money was allegedly funneled back to Jhonnita Williams and Erves.
Pak said she used the money to pay for various personal expenses, including a 3,000-square-foot home. That involved falsely representing where she received $8,500 on a loan application, Pak said.
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