Jonestown mayor Kenny Lester is facing up to 100 years in prison after being arrested by the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday, Dec. 9 for allegedly embezzling residents’ water bill payments and a city police firearm, announced Attorney General Jim Hood on Tuesday, Dec. 11 in a press release.
There are five counts of alleged embezzlement, four of those related to stealing money. The case was investigated by Kenneth West with the Attorney General’s public integrity division. It will be prosecuted by special assistant Attorney General Brad Oberhousen.
Lester took office in July 2017 and is being charged with taking $331 from residents from paid water bills and water line repairs for his own use. The charge alleges he took the money between the beginning of his tenure and August 2018.
A separate indictment alleges that Lester accepted a city-owned Glock model 22.40-caliber handgun from an employee and pawned it for cash while he was in office.
Lester, who was booked into the Coahoma County Jail and released on his own recognizance Sunday, waived his arraignment in circuit court on Tuesday.
The mayor said Sunday was the first time he heard about anyone accusing him of embezzlement. He added he did not know the specifics of the charges until Tuesday.
He declined to comment Tuesday since he had just learned about the charges.
Lester did grant the Press Register permission to use the statement off of his personal Facebook page, which read, “Let me address this. I am the mayor of Jonestown and just because someone is charged doesn’t mean that he is guilty. Thanks to the ones who said that, ‘He has not been found guilty, innocent until proven guilty.’ Llewellyn Lenard and many more, thanks a lot.”
Jonestown police chief Rico Smith and the mayor have been at odds ever since Lester took office.
Lester has gone on record saying he does not want Smith as his police chief and has suspended him on multiple occasions for insubordination.
Smith’s only comment on the embezzlement charges Lester is facing was, “Oh, yes, there is something to it.”
Smith declined to comment further since the Attorney General’s office is leading the investigation on the charges.
If convicted, Lester, who is 44 years old, faces up to 20 years in prison on each count, adding up to a maximum of 100 years. He also faces up to $5,000 in fines on each count for a maximum of $25,000.