AG Hood Urges Congress to Repeal Law that Allows Oversupply of Opioids

November 16, 2017

“Mississippi is in the middle of this crisis just like the rest of the country, and if we need to take legal action against the companies distributing these drugs, then we absolutely will. I know too many families personally affected by this, and after reading that story last month, there’s clearly more we can do to fight it so that more families don’t experience the loss of a loved one.”-Attorney General Hood

Attorney General Jim Hood joined 44 states and territories this week in calling for a repeal of a federal law which strips the DEA of its ability to hold drug manufacturers and distributors accountable as it relates to the oversupply of opioids.

General Hood and the other attorneys general sent a letter to Congress Monday asking for the repeal of the “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016,” which weakens enforcement efforts on drug distributors by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Prior to this law, the DEA had the authority to immediately freeze shipments of narcotics from distributors that it deemed suspicious. Now, the DEA is required to prove the company’s actions pose “a substantial likelihood of an immediate threat,” something critics of the law believe hinders fast action in stopping the oversupply of drugs to pharmacies. In the letter, the group of attorneys general calls the new law “a step backward in our collective effort to prevent the diversion and misuse of prescription drugs.”

“This bill is essentially paving the way for more people to be killed by opioids because it makes access to the drug that much easier, and Congress needs to own up to their role in this epidemic by repealing the law immediately,” said General Hood.

A scathing investigation published last month by The Washington Post and aired on “60 Minutes” revealed the ease with which this bill made its way into law, and since then, General Hood has inquired into looking more closely at what role these distributors have played in creating and prolonging the opioid crisis.

“This bill is essentially paving the way for more people to be killed by opioids because it makes access to the drug that much easier, and Congress needs to own up to their role in this epidemic by repealing the law immediately,” said General Hood. “Mississippi is in the middle of this crisis just like the rest of the country, and if we need to take legal action against the companies distributing these drugs, then we absolutely will. I know too many families personally affected by this, and after reading that story last month, there’s clearly more we can do to fight it so that more families don’t experience the loss of a loved one.”

The letter sent to Congress was also signed by the following states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.


Attorney General’s Cyber Team Arrests Two Mississippians on Child Exploitation and Lust Charges

November 16, 2017

Breland Sellers, 29, was arrested Tuesday and charged with one count of child exploitation for possession of child pornography.

A Pass Christian man and his girlfriend are behind bars today after being arrested on charges of possession of child pornography and gratification of lust, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Breland Sellers, 29, was arrested Tuesday by the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Division and charged with one count of child exploitation for possession of child pornography. Sellers was booked into the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office then transferred to the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office. His bond was set at $75,000. If convicted, Sellers faces up to 40 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Kristina Lynn Crose, 28, was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of gratification of lust.

Kristina Lynn Crose, 28, was arrested Wednesday by the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Division and charged with one count of gratification of lust. Crose was booked into the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office. Her bond was set at $50,000. If convicted, Crose faces up to 15 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

A charge is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. The case will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn.

Assistance with these arrests was provided by the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, both affiliates of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Additional assistance was provided by the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office.


Mississippians May Now File Claims To Be Reimbursed for Money Lost In Scams Using Western Union

November 15, 2017

After reaching a settlement in January with money-transfer service Western Union over money laundering and consumer fraud violations, Mississippians who were deceived into sending payments to scammers using Western Union’s wire transfer over the past 13 years may now apply for compensation, Attorney General Jim Hood announced today.

Mississippians may be eligible to receive compensation if they were a victim of a fraud-induced transfer using Western Union between January 1, 2004, and January 19, 2017. A typical fraud transfer in this case would include a scammer getting their victims to wire them money by making the victim believe it was for a lottery, family emergency, online dating, and other tactics.

Compensation for victims of fraud will come from a $586 million fund administered by the Department of Justice’s Victim Asset Recovery Program. This fund is related to a multi-state settlement with General Hood and 49 other states, the District of Columbia, and Western Union that was first announced in January.

All complaints that were filed with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office covering the relevant time period were sent to Western Union after the settlement was announced. Those individuals and any Mississippians who reported to Western Union or another government agency that they had been the victim of a scam using Western Union will be sent a claim form in the mail. The claim form will be sent from the settlement administrator, Gilardi & Co., in the next two weeks. The form will contain instructions explaining how consumers may file their claim to receive compensation.

However, if you did not previously file a complaint, you may still be eligible to submit a claim directly to Western Union. If you believe you may have an eligible claim, please visit http://www.westernunionremission.com or call 1-844-319-2124 for more information on how to file a claim.

Filing a claim is free, so consumers should not pay anyone to file a claim on their behalf. No one associated with the claims process will ever call to ask for consumers’ bank account or credit card number.

“For years, Western Union allowed scammers to use its money transfer system to get payments from victims, even though they received hundreds of thousands of complaints about money transfers that were induced by fraud and deceit,” said General Hood. “Because they chose to ignore the problem instead of implementing policies and procedures to better protect consumers, they are now having to reimburse consumers for these loses.”

All completed claims forms must be mailed back to the settlement administrator by February 12, 2018. The Attorney General’s Office encourages Mississippians to reach out to our Consumer Protection Division if they have questions or concerns at 1-800-281-4418 or aginfo@ago.state.ms.us.


Hattiesburg Man Sentenced for Child Exploitation

November 14, 2017

Matthew Bryce Gospodinovich, 35, of Hattiesburg, pleaded guilty Monday to a bill of information to one count of child exploitation.

A Hattiesburg man will serve five years in prison for possessing child pornography and sharing those images over the internet, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Matthew Bryce Gospodinovich, 35, of Hattiesburg, pleaded guilty Monday to a bill of information to one count of child exploitation. Forrest County Circuit Court Judge Bob Helfrich sentenced Gospodinovich to 40 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with five years to serve and the remaining 35 years to be served on post-release supervision.  He must pay a $2,500 fine, $200 to the Mississippi Crime Victim Compensation Fund, and all court costs, in addition to registering as a sex offender.

Gospodinovich was arrested in June by investigators with the Attorney General’s Cybercrime Unit, with assistance from the Hattiesburg Police Department. Investigators discovered multiple pornographic images of girls in his possession, which he was obtaining online.

“This man is just one of many who thinks he can remain anonymous on the internet while sharing pictures of children being sexually abused,” said General Hood. “He tried to hide, but our investigators found him and will find others like him out there. We will not let people who take advantage of children hide behind a computer screen.”

This case was investigated by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn.


Former Development Manager Arrested for Embezzling More than a Half Million in Bonds

November 9, 2017

W. David Watkins, 68, of Jackson, turned himself in following his indictment for two counts of embezzling bond money intended for a development project he managed.

Jackson resident W. David Watkins turned himself in to authorities Wednesday night after being indicted on two counts for embezzling bond money intended for a development project he managed, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Watkins, 68, turned himself in to the Madison County Sheriff’s Department on one count of wire fraud and one count of embezzlement. The indictment, which was handed down in October by a Madison County grand jury, states he took $587,084.34 in bond proceeds from the Mississippi Business Finance Corporation while employed as the managing member of development company Retro Metro, LLC in June 2011.

According to the indictment, the bonds were intended for construction costs for a project financed through taxable revenue bonds for which BankPlus in Ridgeland served as Trustee. The bond money was ultimately put toward Watkins’ own use. The wire fraud charge stems from the scheme being transmitted by telephone, wire, or other communication across county lines.

If convicted on all counts, Watkins faces up to 25 years in prison and $30,000 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 Roger Wade and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Robert G. “Bob” Anderson, both with the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division.


Pine Belt Men Plead Guilty in Child Exploitation Cases

November 1, 2017

 

Christopher Britt, 37, of Petal, pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography.

Two southeast Mississippi men were sentenced Tuesday in Forrest County Circuit Court after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography and child exploitation charges, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Christopher Britt, 37, of Petal, pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography, and Timothy Cochran, 51, of McLain, pleaded guilty to one count of child exploitation. Judge Jon Mark Weathers sentenced both men to 40 years in prison with 10 years to serve and 30 years post-release supervision. They must register as sex offenders and cannot have contact with victims in these cases. Additionally, they must both pay $1,000 to the Crime Victim Compensation Fund and $1,000 to the Children’s Trust Fund.

Britt was arrested in January after a report from social-media platform Twitter alerted attorney general investigators he posted images to his account of children being sexually abused. When investigators responded, they found numerous other images and videos in his possession. The images posted online and in his possession ranged from those of toddlers to teenagers.

Cochran was arrested in August 2014 after the mother of a Forrest County 10-year-old found he had been asking her daughter to send him nude pictures of herself over text message. Cochran posed as a classmate of the girl’s, and after multiple attempts of telling the child what types of nude pictures to send, Cochran did not receive the images he wanted.

Timothy Cochran, 51, of McLain, pleaded guilty to one count of child exploitation.

 

“These two cases are perfect examples of why we stress to parents the importance of knowing what your child is looking at on their phone,” said General Hood. “The digital world in which we live can be dangerous to our children with people like this out there, and the first thing we as parents can do to protect our children from predators is to be aware and talk with them about being careful on the internet.”

These cases were investigated by the AG’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force with assistance from the Petal Police Department, which is an ICAC affiliate. The cases were prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn with the AG’s Cybercrime Unit.


Mississippi Receives $1.47 Million from Settlement with General Motors Company Over Defective Ignition Switch

October 23, 2017

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced that Mississippi will receive $1,470,156.60 from a $120 million multi-state settlement with General Motors Company (“GM”). The settlement resolves an investigation into allegations that GM failed to disclose problems with ignition switches installed in 2.1 million automobiles in the United States.

“GM knew that people could be killed or seriously injured because of these defective switches but hid the problem anyway,” said General Hood.

The defective switches, under certain conditions, unexpectedly shifted from the “run” position to “accessory” or “off,” causing vehicles to stall. In addition to shutting down the engine, the defect also disabled power steering, power brakes, and airbags. Although GM became aware of this defect early as 2004, it took no action to notify consumers of the danger until 2014 when it issued the first of several vehicle recall notices. A list of the affected vehicles and the recall notices is included below.

“Anyone who owns a GM vehicle should review these notices to make sure their vehicle is safe,” said General Hood.

Any consumer who has purchased an affected vehicle and believes that they may have a claim against GM may file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office for help processing the claims. Complaints can be filed online at www.agjimhood.com

Ignition Switch Recalls

  • NHTSA Recall No. 14V047, which includes these Motor Vehicles: Model Year (“MY”) 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, MY 2006-2011 Chevrolet HHR, MY 2005-2006 Pontiac Pursuit, MY 2006-2010 Pontiac Solstice, MY 2007-2010 Pontiac G5, MY 2003-2007 Saturn Ion, and MY 2007-2010 Saturn Sky
  • NHTSA Recall No. 14V346, which includes these Motor Vehicles: MY 2010-2014 Chevrolet Camaro
  • NHTSA Recall No. 14V355, which includes these Motor Vehicles: MY 2005-2009 Buick LaCrosse, MY 2006-2011 Buick Lucerne, MY 2000-2005 Cadillac DeVille, MY 2006-2011 Cadillac DTS, MY 2006-2014 Chevrolet Impala, and MY 2006-2007 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
  • NHTSA Recall No. 14V394, which includes these Motor Vehicles: MY 2003-2014 Cadillac CTS and MY 2004-2006 Cadillac SRX
  • NHTSA Recall No. 14V400, which includes these Motor Vehicles: MY 2000-2005 Chevrolet Impala, MY 1997-2003 Chevrolet Malibu, MY 2004-2005 Chevrolet Malibu Classic, MY 2000-2005 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, MY 1999-2004 Oldsmobile Alero, MY 1998-2002 Oldsmobile Intrigue, MY 1999-2005 Pontiac Grand Am, and MY 2004-2008 Pontiac Grand Prix
  • NHTSA Recall No. 14V490, which includes the Motor Vehicle MY 2002-2004 Saturn Vue
  • NHTSA Recall No. 14V540, which includes these Motor Vehicles: MY 2011-2013 Chevrolet Caprice and MY 2008-2009 Pontiac G8


Tunica Woman Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to Second-Degree Murder

October 23, 2017

 

Gloria Jean Logan pleaded guilty Friday to the stabbing death of her neighbor, Rosemary Brown.

A 59-year-old Tunica woman is going to prison for 25 years for murdering her neighbor, Attorney General Jim Hood announced today.

 

Gloria Jean Logan pleaded guilty Friday to the stabbing death of her neighbor, Rosemary Brown. Logan, who was originally charged with first-degree murder, entered a best interest plea, meaning she thought there was evidence to convict her of the original charge. She pleaded to a reduced charge of second-degree murder. Coahoma County Circuit Court Judge Charles Webster sentenced Logan to 30 years in prison, with 25 year to serve, five years suspended, and five years post-release supervision. She must also pay $350 in court costs and complete mandatory mental evaluation and treatment.

Logan was arrested May 11, 2013, by the Tunica County Sheriff’s Department after a resident at Clayton Henderson Meadows Apartments found a trail of blood between Logan’s apartment and the victim’s apartment next door. When Tunica County sheriff’s deputies arrived, they found Brown’s body inside her own apartment with 19 stab wounds, mostly in the chest and neck area. She was pronounced dead on the scene.

“This woman is finally where she needs to be for committing such a heinous act,” said General Hood. “Our office is tasked with keeping Mississippians safe, and we often do that through a good working relationship with other agencies such as Tunica County.”

This case was originally handled by the Tunica County District Attorney, but she recused herself due to a conflict of interest and handed it over to the AG’s office in April 2014. Logan was indicted by a Tunica County grand jury that August.

This case was investigated by Perry Tate of the AG’s Public Integrity Division, with assistance from the Tunica County Sheriff’s Department. It was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin Sanders.