By Monica Land
OXFORD – A housing executive convicted of embezzlement has officially been fired from her job with the South Delta Regional Housing Authority (SDRHA). Ann “AJ” Jefferson, who embezzled from her employer and threatened several employees who were cooperating with federal authorities against her, has been fired as the executive director of the agency.
At the onset of the FBI’s investigation, Jefferson, who’d been with SDRHA for about five years, had been placed on administrative leave, with pay. But following her conviction, the South Delta Board last week, unanimously voted to relieve Jefferson of her duties. The board also authorized their attorneys to investigate how to recoup the funds embezzled by Jefferson.
Earlier this month, Jefferson was found guilty of two counts of embezzlement, two counts of obstruction of justice, and three counts of witness intimidation.
Jefferson, 57, of Leland, was found to have embezzled federal funds from several housing authority accounts for her own personal use and to have retaliated against several employees when she found out those employees were cooperating with federal investigators.
Jefferson also faced allegations that she inappropriately used South Delta maintenance employees to upkeep and maintain her personal lawn and residence.
Following five days of testimony, the jury returned a guilty verdict after deliberating for less than two hours.
Jefferson, who was often criticized for her brazen and aggressive tactics in dealing with employees of South Delta, community members and homeowners, was the executive director of the organization which claims to provide affordable housing to low income families. The program helped families in six counties: Bolivar, Humphreys, Issaquena, Sharkey, Sunflower and Washington to buy their own houses.
Jefferson was arrested on Feb. 7, 2011 after being indicted by a grand jury on Jan. 26, 2011. A warrant was issued for her arrest on Jan. 28.
Her bond was set at $25,000.
According to the indictment, Jefferson allegedly harmed two employees and a tenant of SDRHA through various actions, including interference with employment responsibilities and termination of their employment and all benefits associated therewith, all in retaliation for the witnesses’ cooperation with the FBI.
United States Attorney Felicia C. Adams stated: “Justice has been served. These guilty verdicts help reinforce the need for integrity in organizations which receive funding from taxpayers’ money. Fraud and corruption will not be tolerated in federal housing programs. Many thanks to the FBI, the HUD Inspector General, and the courageous witnesses who came forward to bring justice to South Delta Regional Housing Authority.”
Daniel McMullen, special agent in charge of the FBI in Mississippi, stated, “The FBI is committed to identifying and bringing to justice those who, like Ann Jefferson, break the law in order to enrich themselves at taxpayers’ expense. Jefferson’s self-serving actions were matched only by the selfless acts of the witnesses who stepped forward and cooperated in this investigation, at great personal and financial risk.”
Federal court officials said a sentencing date has not been set, but Jefferson faces up to 90 years in prison and up to $1.75 million in fines. She could also be ordered to pay restitution to the victims of her crimes.
Jefferson’s attorneys are seeking a new trial.