Arab Electric employee accused of embezzling almost $3 million pleaded not guilty

ARAB, Ala. -- Federal prosecutors accused an Arab Electric Cooperative employee of embezzling almost $3 million from the company. Tuesday afternoon, Jack Willis pleaded not guilty in front of a federal court.

John Willis, known as Jack, worked as a member services supervisor with the Arab Electric Cooperative. He was put on unpaid leave near the beginning of the year.

Officials say in early March, the Tennessee Valley Authority conducted a routine audit at the utility company. The company also had a software change. "They audit random accounts, and in this particular case it uncovered the things that led to the discovery of the things that he is charged with doing," said Marshall County District Attorney Everette Johnson.

It's not clear how far back the irregularities uncovered in the routine audit go.

The Marshall County District Attorney's Office worked closely with state and federal investigators. Then the case went to the U.S. Attorney's Office. "We've stayed in close contact with them and they always contact us," Johnson said, "That was with our agreement and consent for them to handle the case."

Willis appeared in United States District Court in Huntsville for an arraignment Tuesday afternoon. Court documents show federal prosecutors want Willis to forfeit any property, real or personal, for the amount of the supposed embezzlement - nearly $3 million.

Willis pleaded not guilty in federal court. He was released on a $5,000 bond Tuesday afternoon.

The court documents were filed in early August.