Middle GA woman pleads guilty to stealing more than $575K from Milledgeville housing fund

An Eatonton woman pleaded guilty Monday to stealing more than $575,000 from the Milledgeville Housing Authority over the course of two years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Jennifer Kay Smith, 49, faces up to 10 years in prison after she pleaded guilty in federal court this week to stealing the money in 2021 and 2022, a news release from the U.S. District Attorney’s Middle District of Georgia office read. In total, Smith stole $575,014.50.

“I messed up, I know I messed up,” Smith said to investigators in a case interview, according to the news release.

Smith had control of the MHA’s payroll when she stole the money, the release said, using her position to stack vacation time and sick leave on top of her normal pay to make it appear that she’d worked more than 40 hours a week.

The MHA did not check Smith’s numbers, and she eventually paid herself $500,000 more than her salary from January to August of 2022. She also paid herself more than $40,000 above her regular salary in 2021, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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

In addition to up to 10 years in prison, Smith could be sentenced to an additional three years of supervised release and up to $250,000 in fines. The Milledgeville Police helped federal agencies investigate the case.