Former Shelby County mayoral aide Tom Jones pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to embezzlement. He subsequently made another guilty plea to similar charges in state court.
Jones, head of public affairs for Shelby County under three mayors in four decades, waived his right to indictment and pleaded guilty to information submitted by federal prosecutor Tim Discenza. U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Breen accepted the plea in a hearing that lasted about 25 minutes.
The single count to which Jones admitted guilt states that from 1999 to 2002 Jones embezzled at least $5000 each year in federal funds. Shelby County gets federal funds, and that is why the case was in federal court.
The amount of money that Jones used for personal instead of county expenses is in dispute. The federal government contends it is over $100,000, while Jones and his attorneys, Kemper Durand and Al Harvey, say it is less than that.
Sentencing was set for August 28th. Jones was released on his recognizance with no conditions or travel restrictions. Discenza said the government would recommend a sentence at the lower end of the federal sentencing guidelines. He said that could include imprisonment and supervised release, but he did not indicate how long the sentence might be.
Discenza said the government was prepared to show that Jones used funds channeled through the Memphis Regional Chamber of Commerce for personal use while submitting payment requests that indicated they were for business travel or other county expenses. Credit card receipts show that Jones bought CDs, diet products, gifts, and a honeymoon trip for his daughter with a county credit card.
The story broke nearly a year ago in the final weeks of the administration of Mayor Jim Rout. In addition to being head of public affairs, Jones was a top special assistant to the mayor and served on several boards. Rout suspended Jones in the final week of his term.
Jones pleaded guilty to one count of theft of property between $10,000 and $60,000 and official misconduct following an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in coordination with the FBI.
Jones made his guilty plea in state court after he pleaded guilty to the related charge in federal court.
Jones will be sentenced in state court after he is sentenced in federal court.