FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jackson, MS—A Jackson social worker will spend several more years behind bars for exploiting vulnerable persons in her care,announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.
Ponchie McCollough, age 37, whose last known address was 308 William McKinley in Jackson, remains behind bars today after entering guilty pleas to one count of conspiracy to commit the crime of exploitation of vulnerable persons and five counts of felony exploitation of vulnerable persons.At the time the crimes were committed, McCollough was employed as the social worker at Belhaven Senior Care, a nursing home in the Jackson area owned and operated by Trend Consultants of Natchez, MS.
McCollough admitted to Judge Swan Yerger that she had exploited residents of the facility out of several thousand dollars and used her position to have checks written to other co-defendants from the trust funds of the vulnerable adults under the guise of spending down their money so that they would not lose their Medicaid benefits. The proceeds from the checks were to be used on the needs of the residents, but were instead divided between the conspirators.
Judge Yerger accepted McCollough’s plea under the watchful eyes of four victims, who are all confined to wheelchairs but whose health permitted them to attend the hearing. Upon acceptance of the plea one of the victims to the crimes addressed the court asking that the “Judge send a message that nursing homes were not bad places, but that sometimes bad people are employed by nursing homes.”
Judge Yerger sentenced McCollough to five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections for the conspiracy charge and ten years for each of the exploitation charges, four years of which were to be suspended, followed by five years supervised probation. The sentences are to run concurrently, meaning that McCollough will serve six years. She has remained in jail since her arrest November 18, 2009 and will be given credit for time served. She is required to pay resititution to Belhaven Senior Care in the amount of $8,100, as well as paying $1,000 to the Crime Victim’s Compenation Fund which is to be paid during the five years probationary time. In addition, McCollough is to testify truthfully against the five co-defendants in this case: Brad Burt, Jessica McKinney, Madeleine Floyd, Justin Johnson and Tina Brewer. If she does not, she will face additional penalties.
“I really appreciate the tough stance Judge Yerger has taken over the years and I fully intend to bring this matter back before him if this defendant fails to testify truthfully,” said Attorney General Hood.
Trend Consultants of Natchez, Ms was legally liable for the resident’s trust fund and was required by the Attorney General’s Office to replace the $25,785 to the individual accounts of the residents, as well as being required to pay a penalty of $77,355 to the State for failing to report possible exploitation of vulnerable adults within the facility.