A former electric company supervisor has been sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison and ordered to pay back nearly $3 million he embezzled from the co-op to build an extensive collection of baseball and football cards.
John Pearson “Jack” Willis III, 57, of Arab, AL, pleaded guilty in September to one count of embezzling from an organization that receives federal funds. Pearson’s sentence, handed down by U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor, also includes three years of supervised release following his prison term.
In addition to an order to reimburse Arab Electric Company, Proctor ordered Willis to forfeit the same amount of money to the government as proceeds of illegal activity.
“Willis violated the trust of the hardworking members of this co-op by stealing millions of dollars, which he spent primarily on sports collectibles,” U.S. Attorney Jay Town said Tuesday. “He literally traded his freedom for $3 million worth of baseball cards.”
Exactly what type of items Willis bought with the embezzled funds hasn’t been released. Willis, a married father with children, also used part of the money to buy a mobile home near Auburn University, automobiles and to cover living expenses for his college age children.
The electric co-op hired Willis as its member services supervisor in 1988. As the cooperative’s primary fiduciary officer, Willis operated with limited oversight and removed large amounts of cash from customer deposits according to his plea agreement. He altered deposit slips and manipulated billing software to cover his embezzlement, which took place over a period of several years.
Willis must report to prison April 18.