A U.S. district judge sentenced the former executive director of the Jefferson County Housing Authority to spend 10 months in federal prison after he converted more than $20,000 in authority funds for personal expenses.
In addition to the prison sentence, Thomas J. Upchurch, 53, now of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, was ordered to pay $20,150 in restitution back to the housing authority, and he will serve one year of supervised release.
“To promote respect for the law, the defendant’s sentence sends a clear message to deter other organizational leaders from abusing their power and spending authority,” said U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe.
“The actions of Thomas Upchurch undermined the ability of the housing authority to provide housing assistance to those who need their services,” said FBI Springfield Field Office Acting Special Agent in Charge Joe Rodriguez. “The FBI is particularly vigilant in instances where individuals take advantage of federal program funds.”
According to court documents, Upchurch linked the housing authority’s credit card to his personal Amazon account and made nearly 300 inappropriate charges for personal items. Over a three-year period, the charges totaled more than $20,000. To conceal his fraud, Upchurch blocked the members of JCHA’s Board of Commissioners from reviewing his spending records. The defendant was charged with one count of conversion of federal funds due to the JCHA’s funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The JCHA serves 712 residents over 425 housing units in Mt. Vernon, Dix, Ina, Waltonville and Woodlawn. Members of the Jefferson County Board appoint the JCHA’s Board of Commissioners who then appoint an executive director to oversee its operations.
The FBI Springfield Field Office conducted the investigation with assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft prosecuted the case.