A former El Cajon councilwoman admitted to stealing $3.5 million from victims in court on Friday.
Jillian Hanson-Cox pleaded guilty to felony charges of mail fraud and making a false tax return. She faces 23 years in prison and a $7 million fine.
Hanson-Cox abused her position at Century Design Inc. by writing unauthorized checks for four years, said a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office.
Many were surprised when Cox’s home was searched by federal agents in March. Friends said she was planning for a third term on the city council and political observers called her a "real community leader.”
Hanson-Cox wrote a letter to the mayor and council members shortly after her home was searched, saying events had “given rise to a burden and demand” on her time. Hanson-Cox was El Cajon's deputy mayor.
The plea deal allows her to remain free on $100,000 bond, but the does not limit her sentence.
Cox could get the maximum punishment of 23 years. She will be sentenced on Dec. 3 in federal court.