A northern New Jersey housing authority official has pleaded guilty to extorting employees of a maintenance company that had contracts with the town.

John Kennell (Youtube)

John T. Kennell admitted in federal court that while serving as director of operations for the North Bergen Housing Authority he took money from the employees in exchange for falsifying their vacation records.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says Kennell took between $100 and $400 from the employees for telling their company they were doing work for the housing authority when they were actually traveling outside the country.

The company paid about $12,500 to employees for the unauthorized vacation days.

Kennell pleaded guilty to extortion under the color of official right. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 25.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press