A former local housing authority official at the Junction City Housing Authority in Kansas has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $100,000 while he was the executive director of the agency, federal officials said.

James H. Tate, 58, entered a guilty plea Tuesday during a hearing in Topeka, according to a U.S. Attorney’s office statement.

In his plea, Tate admitted that between December 2002 and Nov. 6, 2004, he stole more than $100,000 from the housing authority, which receives federal funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide decent shelter for low-income residents, officials said.

Tate said he started working for the housing authority in 1990 as a handy person and was promoted to executive director in January 1992. His job was to manage the daily operations of the housing authority and to report to the authority’s board of directors.

In 2000, the housing authority began using a computerized software accounting program that provided for signing checks electronically, according to officials. Housing authority policy required two signatures on checks: the executive director’s signature and the chairman’s signature.

According to the plea, Tate obtained the passwords required to access the electronic signatures of Kristi Valrie and Deb Johnston, both of whom served terms as chairman of the board. Using the electronic signatures, he diverted housing authority money for personal use, charging personal items on the housing authority’s credit card. He charged eye glasses, clothes, travel expenses, food, jewelry, candles and other items he purchased for his friends and family. He also used the housing authority’s gas cards to buy gas for his personal use. He drove housing authority vehicles on trips with family and friends to shop or dine in Topeka, Manhattan, Kansas City and Salina.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 13, 2006. Tate faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.


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