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ST. LOUIS • The former head of the Wellston Housing Authority pleaded guilty Monday to a federal theft charge and admitted stealing tenants' rent money.

Marchell Benton, 63, deposited tenant rent money in her personal bank or used it to pay the rent of relatives who were tenants, her plea agreement says. Benton then falsified records to show that the tenants whose rent money she'd misused had paid their rent, or used another tenant's rent money to cover up her theft.

The scheme ran from at least Jan. 1, 2013, to April 28, 2015, the plea says. 

Benton was executive director of the Wellston Housing Authority at the time, and was responsible for day-to-day operations, as well as collecting rent and keeping rent records, the plea says. The plea agreement doesn't tally up the exact total of rent stolen, but penalizes her for a "loss amount" of $15,000-$40,000.

The housing authority was under administrative receivership by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at the time due to bad governance and property conditions.

Plans are underway to get rid of all the public housing units in Wellston.

At her sentencing hearing in August, Benton could face six to 12 months in prison.