The mayor of the City of Jonestown, located in Coahoma County, is facing 100 years in prison after being arrested Sunday on charges for allegedly embezzling residents’ water bill payments and a city police firearm, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Kenneth Lester was arrested by the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Department following his indictment by a Coahoma County grand jury on five counts of felony embezzlement, four of those related to allegedly stealing money. The first indictment alleges that Lester, while serving as mayor, took the money residents paid for water bills and water line repairs and converted it for his own use between July 2017 and August 2018. A separate indictment alleges that Lester accepted a city-owned Glock Model 22.40 caliber handgun from an employee and pawned it for cash while he was the acting mayor of Jonestown.
Lester was booked into the Coahoma County Jail and released on his own recognizance. If convicted, Lester faces up to 20 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines on each count. A charge is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case was investigated by Kenneth West with the AG’s Public Integrity Division. The case will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brad Oberhousen.
Jim Hood Announces $6 Million Settlement with Nation’s Largest Debt Buyers to Reform Debt Buying and Collection Practices
Approximately 238 Mississippians will have judgement balances on debt completely eliminated or reduced thanks to a settlement recently reached by Attorney General Jim Hood and 41 states and the District of Columbia with Encore Capital Group Inc. and its subsidiaries Midland Credit Management, Inc. and Midland Funding, LLC, one of the nation’s largest debt buyers.
The $6 million settlement resolves the states’ investigation into Midland’s collection and litigation practices and settles claims that Midland signed and filed affidavits in state courts in large volumes without verifying the information printed in them, a practice commonly called robo-signing. Mississippi’s share of this payment will be $94,925.
Debt buying involves buying and selling overdue debts from creditors and other account owners. Often purchased for pennies on the dollar, debt buyers seek to recover the full balance from consumers through collection attempts by phone and mail. Debt buyers, including Midland, also take consumers to court to collect the debts they purchase. However, people are often unable to afford attorneys to defend the allegations and cases result in default judgments, hurting credit and putting people in jeopardy of having their wages garnished.
“The practice of robo-signing hurts consumers, especially our lower-income consumers who may not have the means to fight a debt collector in court,” said General Hood. “Midland illegally attempted to collect debts it had not verified through robo-signing and other illegal practices. Today’s settlement provides assurance to consumers that Midland will not abuse them again and serves as a warning to other dishonest companies.”
As part of the settlement, Midland will completely eliminate or reduce the judgment balances for approximately 238 Mississippi consumers for a value of $281,748 in cases where Midland used an affidavit against them in court between 2003 and 2009. Midland will notify impacted consumers by mail of the balance reduction, and no further action is necessary from the consumer. Midland will also set aside $25,000 per state to compensate consumers who may have paid Midland money that the consumer did not owe.
The settlement requires Midland to reform its affidavit signing and litigation practices. Midland must carefully verify the information in affidavits and present accurate documents in court proceedings. When Midland files a lawsuit, it must have account documents about the debt before they file the case, including the amount of the debt, proof of an agreement, and an explanation about why any additional fees are justified.
The settlement offers protections to consumers Midland is collecting from even if they are not being sued. All consumers must receive accurate information about valid debts. If a consumer disputes a debt Midland is collecting, the settlement requires Midland to review original account documents before it continues its collection efforts. Midland must provide these substantiating documents to the consumer for no charge. The settlement requires Midland maintain proper oversight and training over its employees and the law firms that it uses. The agreement prohibits Midland from reselling debt for two years.
Mississippi was joined in this settlement by attorneys general in the following states: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii , Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The effort to hold companies accountable for their role in the statewide opioid epidemic continues with a new lawsuit filed by the State of Mississippi against multiple opioid distributors, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
The state filed a complaint in Hinds County Circuit Court against opioid distributorsCardinal Health, Inc., McKesson Corporation, and AmerisourceBergen Corporation for failing to prevent the diversion of opioids in Mississippi. The lawsuit alleges that these three companies, who distribute the majority of highly addictive opioids, have failed to prevent the diversion of those drugs by breaching their legal duties to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse, and report suspicious orders of opioids, which the complaint states is a violation of the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act. As a result, Mississippi has been flooded with opioids and is suffering an ongoing public health crisis.
The state is seeking to curtail the massive flow of opioids being shipped into the State by these defendants which are then diverted into elicit markets.
“In 2017 alone, Mississippi had enough opioids supplied to provide 61 pills for every man, woman, and child in the State,” General Hood said. “If these distributors were attending to their supply rates, they would realize that amount of pills is way too large for a state the size of Mississippi. These companies must own up to their contribution to this deadly crisis, and I intend on holding them fully accountable.”
In 2017, there were over 3.3 million opioid prescriptions dispensed in Mississippi. That number equates to 182,882,444 opioid dosage units or 501,048 dosage units every day for 2017. The attorney general’s lawsuit against Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen will hold them responsible for their role in saturating Mississippi with opioids by failing in their duty under the law to report, investigate, and halt suspicious orders. The complaint alleges that if these companies had done what they were legally obligated to do, the opioid epidemic would not be what it is today.
“These very distributors have been subjected to enforcement actions and fines by the DEA for hundreds of millions of dollars for previously allowing the diversion of opioids to occur, yet they failed to take meaningful action to stop it,” General Hood said. “We will not allow them to continue getting away with this in Mississippi.”
General Hood led the nation in filing the first lawsuit on behalf of a state against multiple drug manufacturing companies for falsely marketing opioids as rarely addictive. The suit was filed in December 2015 in Hinds County Chancery Court against five of the largest opioid manufacturers. One of the companies in that suit, Purdue along with three of its executives, plead guilty in 2007 to federal charges and paid more than $600 million in fines related to intentional misrepresentations as to the addictiveness of OxyContin. General Hood charges that the companies deceived Mississippi Medicaid, doctors, and consumers in order to boost profits at the expense of innocent victims.
Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that he has joined a bipartisan group of 40 state attorneys general to stop or reduce annoying and harmful robocalls. The coalition is reviewing the technology major telecom companies are pursuing to combat illegal robocalls, and it is in addition to the ongoing efforts by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office and the Mississippi Public Service Commission.
“These calls aren’t just an annoyance. They are a safety concern,” General Hood said. “Our office often receives complaints regarding robo and scam calls, many involving someone, especially the elderly, sending money to the scammer on the other end of the phone. We have committed to be a leading state in the working group because I’m sick of robocallers harassing and scamming Mississippians. I am encouraged by the progress we’ve made so far, but I will not stop until we see a significant reduction in these calls. Robocalls and spoofing are technological problems that need technological solutions, in addition to regulatory improvements and legal enforcement. That’s why we are actively engaging carriers to implement solutions as quickly as possible.” In the meantime, our office has consumer education materials to help consumers limit calls, and we have encouraged other states to adopt and utilize those materials as well.
“This summer we partnered with the Mississippi Public Service Commission to issue two consumer guides with information regarding robocalls for both mobile and landlines,” General Hood said. “The information guides consumers through their options on both the state and national level in registering for Do Not Call lists and reporting violations of those lists.” The guides, which can be downloaded for free at this link, also include information on resources from mobile apps, phone carriers and cloud-based services, and built-in features on mobile phones.
Since the multistate group was formed, it has had in-depth meetings with several major telecom companies. These productive meetings have led to greater information sharing about the technological capabilities currently in existence or in development to fight these calls.
- Develop a detailed understanding of what is technologically feasible to minimize unwanted robocalls and illegal telemarking
- Engage the major telecom companies to encourage them to expedite the best possible solutions for consumers
- Determine what future steps should be taken in coordination with federal agencies
Attorney General Hood, an executive member of this group, is joined by creators Attorney General Josh Stein (NC), Attorney General Curtis Hill (IN), and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald (NH) as well as attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
A Jackson man, doing business as a public accountant, was arrested Friday on charges of felony embezzlement of more than $100,000, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Cuyler Arlin Dodson (AKA: C.A. Dodson), 65, of Jackson, was taken into custody on Friday following a search warrant executed by investigators with the Attorney General’s Office. Dodson has been charged with nine counts of felony embezzlement.
Dodson allegedly used his position as a public accountant to embezzle money from his clients. Dodson is accused of using the trust that he had built with a client to gain access to the client’s checking accounts under the guise that he was handling the client’s expenses. Following a disagreement between the client and Dodson, the client discovered Dodson’s scheme after requesting bank statements from the client’s financial institution. Those statements did not match payments recorded by Dodson, according to the charges.
Dodson was booked into the Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond. If convicted, Dodson faces up to 60 years in prison and up to $105,000 in fines. A charge is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case was investigated by Bo Luckey with the AG’s Consumer Protection Division and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Patrick Beasley.
Three people were arrested in Jackson Thursday for stealing copper cables from AT&T poles in the area valued at a loss of more than $225,000 to the company, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Jackson residents Jon-Phillips Cote, 25, and Cynthia Ford, 45, and Madison resident Chance Joiner, 33, were arrested at Metal Processors by investigators with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division and Cyber Crime Unit. They were each charged with one felony count of grand larceny and booked in the Hinds County jail.
If convicted, they each face 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A charge is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case was investigated by Lee McDivitt and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Patrick Beasley, both with the AG’s Consumer Protection Division.
Quincy Joshua LaBauve, 32, of Biloxi, will spend 40 years in prison for possessing child pornography and sexually abusing young girls, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
The AG’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force conducted an online investigation into LaBauve’s activity in online chat rooms. LaBauve shared a picture of a preteen and stated that he was molesting her, which led to investigators executing a search warrant on his phone and computer where hundreds of sexual images and videos were found that he both downloaded and took on his own of young girls.
LaBauve was arrested last year by attorney general investigators and charged with two counts of child exploitation. Additionally, District Attorney Joel Smith’s office charged LaBauve with one count of sexual battery. He entered an open plea to the child exploitation charges last month. Harrison County Circuit Court Judge Roger Clark sentenced LaBauve on Thursday to 10 years on each count of child exploitation and 20 years on the sexual battery charge. The sentences will run consecutively, for a total of 40 years that will be served day-for-day in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
“Most importantly, the children in this awful situation are safe and receiving the proper care needed to live the life a child should get to live. Thanks to Judge Clark and the dedicated work of DA Smith and our prosecutors and investigators, this deranged man will not touch another innocent child,” said General Hood. “It is another level of evil when someone sexually abuses precious children.”
The child exploitation cases were investigated by Jay Houston and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn, both of the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit. The sexual battery case was handled by the District Attorney’s Office of the 2nd Judicial District.
A total of 163 people have been convicted of child exploitation crimes to date by General Hood’s ICAC Task Force.
Steven Adkins of Madison will spend 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to spending his mother’s money instead of paying her medical bills.
Adkins, 62, was sentenced Monday to 10 years on one felony count of exploitation of a vulnerable person by Madison County Circuit Court Judge William Chapman. An investigation by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit found that Adkins depleted his mother’s funds in excess of $30,000 between March and December 2017. The AG’s Office investigation showed that instead of paying for his mother’s care, Adkins made numerous cash withdrawals from her account and spent that money on himself.
“As a son who has cared for his own parents, it is beyond angering that a person would selfishly abuse that trust and responsibility,” General Hood said.
Judge Chapman ran this sentence consecutive to an eight year sentence Adkins is already serving on an unrelated drug charge, totaling 18 years in prison.
This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Katie Moulds and investigated by Joel Houston, both with the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.