Image via MARTA.
Jhonnita Williams, a former department administrator at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), was recently sentenced for her involvement in a false-invoice scheme that resulted in the transit authority paying out more than $520,000 for non-existent maintenance projects – funds that were then cycled back to her and a partner.
In November, Williams, 48, pled guilty to one-count of conspiratorial federal program theft, according to Justice Department materials. Late this month, Williams was sentenced to 16 months in prison, three years of supervised release and must pay $522,825.45 in restitution.
“Williams sold the public’s trust for self-enrichment when she chose to participate in a half-of-a-million-dollar theft of MARTA funds,” U.S. Attorney Byung Pak said in a statement. “Her sentence sends a clear message to others who may choose to misuse taxpayer dollars that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Williams worked for MARTA from 1999 to 2017, according to justice department materials. From 2010 to 2017, she worked as an assistant and department administrator for Joseph Erves. During most of the conspiracy, Erves served as MARTA’s senior director of operations and oversaw the maintenance of all the department’s buses and trains.
From June 2010 to December 2016, Williams and Erves both prepared more than 40 fake invoices using three vendors maintenance projects, according to Justice Department materials. After being paid, those vendors funneled most of the funds they received back to Erves and Williams. In total, the transit agency paid more than $520,000 for projects where no work was ever done.
“The sentencing of Ms. Jhonnita Williams concludes a coordinated investigation with our federal law enforcement partners, and we are satisfied with the results,” MARTA Police Chief Wanda Dunham said in a statement. “This sentencing will send a clear message to any MARTA employee who thinks they are above the law and would act to erode the trust the public has given us.”