The former treasurer of the City of Houston in Mat-Su was arrested Tuesday after a federal grand jury indicted him last month on charges of wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion.
The indictment alleges that Jess George Adams of Willow embezzled more than $1.16 million from the City of Houston and from a Wasilla equipment company between 2015 and 2022.
He was indicted on 17 counts of wire fraud, eight counts of money laundering and six counts of tax evasion.
Adams is accused of using his access to City of Houston accounts to transfer around $274,000 to his personal account while serving as Houston’s treasurer, a role in which he was entrusted with bookkeeping and given access to the city’s accounting records and software starting in 2015.
Adams was placed on administrative leave in October 2018 and resigned the following month. A year later, he was hired as a bookkeeper by an equipment company based in Wasilla, where he allegedly transferred funds totaling $887,500 from the company’s account to his personal accounts at multiple financial institutions between 2019 and 2022, according to the indictment.
Adams used fictitious entries in both the city and company accounting software to make it seem like those payments were made to cover legitimate expenses, the indictment alleges.
Adams is also accused of laundering the money he embezzled from the Wasilla equipment company by wiring amounts of more than $10,000 from his personal bank account to other accounts on several occasions, according to the indictment.
The indictment further alleges that Adams filed with the IRS false individual income tax returns for 2016 through 2021 that didn’t include the income he’d diverted to himself from his employers, in an effort to dodge income tax assessment and hide the embezzlement of funds.
According to the indictment, he purported to have previously worked as a tax return preparer for a national company on a seasonal basis.
Adams, if convicted, faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud, 10 years for each count related to money laundering and five years for each count of tax evasion, according to federal prosecutors.
He was previously sued in 2021 by the insurance company that had insured the City of Houston. Insurers paid roughly $275,000 to the city for the losses that resulted from Adams’ alleged embezzlement.
The court case was decided in favor of the insurance company, and Adams was ordered in October 2022 to pay $275,000 to the National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, an equal sum to the amount the insurance company had paid out to the city.
In a letter to residents dated Tuesday, Houston Mayor Carter Cole wrote that the city was “offered a choice to be a silent party and spare the city the public scrutiny that is involved in a case like this. The decision was made to be publicly named as a victim so the citizens of the City of Houston would be informed of the criminal activities so the city council could move the City of Houston forward to a much brighter and shining future.”
Adams made an initial court appearance Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kyle Reardon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska.