Ex-Houston treasurer embezzled $1.1M from city and Wasilla company, feds say

The front of a building with a line of street lights lead to a building. The sign above the entrance reads "Federal Building US Courthouse."
The James M. Fitzgerald U.S. Courthouse & Federal Building in downtown Anchorage on Aug. 31, 2022. (Valerie Kern/Alaska Public Media)

A former treasurer for the City of Houston faces federal charges of embezzling more than $1 million from the city and a former Wasilla employer.

Jess George Adams was arrested this week, according to a Wednesday statement from U.S. Attorney S. Lane Tucker’s office. Adams, 65, is accused of 31 counts of wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion in a grand jury indictment.

The $1.16 million Adams allegedly embezzled includes about $274,000 from Houston, where Adams served as treasurer from October 2015 to November 2018. Until he resigned after being placed on administrative leave, prosecutors say Adams had “administrative access to the City’s accounting records and software.”

“Adams allegedly used this access to direct electronic transfers of funds from the City’s bank account to his personal account, maintained by Adams to hide the embezzled funds,” federal officials wrote in the statement. “It is further alleged that Adams used fictitious entries in the City’s accounting software to make it appear as though these payments were made for legitimate business expenses.”

The bulk of the stolen funds — $887,500 — came from the second employer Adams allegedly targeted, a Wasilla-based equipment company where he worked from November 2019 to March 2022. According to the indictment, Adams sent 158 payments from the company’s account to three of his own accounts during that time.

Adams is also accused of filing fraudulent income-tax returns from 2016 to 2021, which did not mention the embezzled funds.

If convicted, Adams faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each of 17 wire-fraud counts, 10 years on each of eight money-laundering counts and five years on each of six tax-evasion counts.

Adams was listed in custody at the Anchorage Correctional Complex. A federal public defender, listed as his attorney, said he had no comment on the charges. Adams was scheduled to make an initial court appearance Wednesday.

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at cklint@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Chris here.

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