Ex-MARTA administrator pleads guilty in $500K theft scheme

A former MARTA administrator has pleaded guilty to being involved in a fake-invoice scheme.
A former MARTA administrator has pleaded guilty to being involved in a fake-invoice scheme.

A former MARTA administrator pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges of participating in a scheme that resulted in the transit agency paying more than $520,000 for maintenance projects where no work was done.

Jhonnita L. Williams, 47, of Atlanta, worked for MARTA from 1999 to 2017.

From about June 2010 to December 2016, she and her supervisor, Joseph J. Erves, had more than 40 fake invoices  prepared, federal authorities said in a news release. The invoices were on behalf of three vendors.

RELATED: Ex-MARTA administrator faces charges for alleged $500K false-invoice scheme

Williams and Erves used the false invoices to authorize payments to the three vendors, including fake invoices submitted by a business owned by Ferrell Williams, who was romantically involved with Jhonnita Williams, according to the release. After being paid, all three of the vendors funneled most of the money received from MARTA back to Erves and Williams.

Jhonnita Williams used the money to pay for personal expenses, including the financing and purchase of a four-bedroom, single-family home, authorities said. She pleaded guilty to one count of conspiratorial federal program theft.

Erves pleaded guilty to being involved in the same scheme and was sentenced to 33 months in prison in January.

“MARTA trusted Williams to use and protect taxpayer dollars effectively and responsibly,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said in the release. “Her participation ... demonstrates that she sold the public’s trust for self-enrichment.”

“The guilty plea by Ms. Williams concludes a coordinated investigation with our federal law enforcement partners, and we are satisfied with the results,” MARTA Police Chief Wanda Y. Dunham said. “We hope this guilty verdict serves as a deterrent for others who would attempt to defraud the taxpayers.”

In other news:

A total of 116 cases have been confirmed across the country, including 3 in Georgia.

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