Crime

Coast real estate agent accused of embezzlement. ‘I am innocent,’ she says.

A crime both small and big businesses are victims of: embezzlement

Ever wonder what embezzlement is? This white collar crime is hurting businesses all over.
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Ever wonder what embezzlement is? This white collar crime is hurting businesses all over.

A former employee of a California-based real estate company was arrested Wednesday in Jackson County on a felony charge of embezzlement.

Jessica Marie Hightower, 36, of Ocean Springs was taken into custody by Jackson County sheriff’s deputies.

She was arrested on a Justice Court warrant.

The warrant alleges Hightower stole $12,955 that she had access to as a result of her job as a agent with Ideal Home Real Estate Holdings, LLC., according to court records.

Hightower had an initial appearance Wednesday afternoon, and her bond was set at $2,500. She was released shortly after her arrest.

Felony embezzlement is punishable by up to a $25,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.

Hightower and her husband are owners of Exit Sunshine Realty, based in Jackson County. Hightower said she has done a large majority of her sales in Moss Point and surrounding Jackson County.

Hightower said the allegations against her are false.

She says she has devoted her career to helping people in the community of Escatawpa and Moss Point.

“We picked that community to try to help with the crime rate and to try to touch lives in that area and that is exactly what I have done,” she said Thursday. “I am innocent. I have done nothing wrong. Those who know me know the truth. I’m putting it in God’s hands to prove my innocence. People who know me know my good heart, but this does hurt.”

The only involvement she said she had with company accusing her of wrongdoing was managing a 32-unit apartment complex in an area known for high-crime.

Hightower said she has worked hard over the last decade to build up her reputation as a successful real estate agent making multimillion dollar sales.

She said she plans to fight the charge against her until her innocence is proven.

The case remains under investigation.

Ever wonder what embezzlement is? This white collar crime is hurting businesses all over.

Margaret Baker is an investigative reporter whose search for truth exposed corrupt sheriffs, a police chief and various jailers and led to the first prosecution of a federal hate crime for the murder of a transgendered person. She worked on the Sun Herald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Hurricane Katrina team. When she pursues a big story, she is relentless.
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