Former Personal Care Home Operator in Tupelo Sentenced for Stealing More than $38,000 From a Vulnerable Person

February 12, 2016
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Demetria Hooper Donelson, 45, of Saltillo, has been sentenced for felony exploitation of a vulnerable person, Attorney General Jim Hood announced today.

Donelson appeared Thursday before Lee County Circuit Court Judge James L. Roberts, Jr. and entered an open plea for felony exploitation of a vulnerable person. An open plea means the defendant refuses to accept the state’s recommendation and instead throws himself or herself at the mercy of the court. As a result, Judge Roberts sentenced Donelson to 10 years, which was suspended, in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Donelson was ordered to pay restitution to the victim in the amount of $38,797. The defendant had $17,378.70 to pay towards restitution at the time of the plea, leaving a balance of $21,418.30 which is to be paid in monthly installments of $500 beginning in March 2016. Judge Roberts further ordered that she serve four years of supervised probation, during which time she is to pay the outstanding restitution. Additionally, Donelson must pay $250 to Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund.                             

At the time the crime was committed, Donelson was the owner and operator of Hannahome Personal Care Home in Tupelo. She pled guilty to gaining access to the account of a vulnerable person in her care and withdrawing approximately $38,797 and converting it to her own use.

“Mississippians deserve every assurance that their loved ones will be appropriately cared for in nursing facilities, and we will continue to prosecute anyone who is caught stealing from our most vulnerable citizens,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “We thank Judge Roberts for the sentence and for making this defendant pay back every dollar she stole, and we appreciate Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson and his deputies for their assistance with this case.”

This case was investigated by Joe Sanderson with the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Attorney General’s Office and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney Generals Mark McClinton and Sue Perry.

 


ATTORNEY GENERAL JIM HOOD ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT WITH MONEYGRAM

February 11, 2016
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Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that MoneyGram Payment Systems, Inc. has agreed to improve its anti-fraud program to help protect consumers from financial losses as part of a settlement with Mississippi and other states.

“Con artists use a wide variety of schemes to persuade consumers to wire them money,” said Attorney General Hood. “These range from the heartless ‘grandparent or relative in distress’ scam in which a fraudster contacts a grandparent and falsely claims that money must be wired to assist with a grandchild’s medical or legal emergency to lottery and contest scams in which consumers are told they have won a large sum of money but must first wire money to pay required taxes or fees before receiving their winnings.”

Today’s settlement resolves a multistate investigation that focused  on complaints of consumers who used MoneyGram’s wire transfer service to send money to third parties involved in schemes to defraud consumers.  “Scammers will try in almost every way they can to persuade consumers to wire them money,” Attorney General Hood said.   “Today’s settlement with MoneyGram ensures that the company will continue working to cut down on fraud. Consumers also need to remember to be very cautious about wiring money, whatever the circumstances, especially to people they don’t know or have never met.”

MoneyGram agreed to maintain and continue to improve its comprehensive and robust anti-fraud program designed to help detect and prevent consumers from suffering financial losses from fraud-induced wire transfers.  The program must be documented in writing and at a minimum, must include the following elements:

  • mandatory and documented compliance training for agents and guidelines regarding when an agent’s conduct warrants suspension or termination;
  • suspension or termination of agents who fail to take commercially reasonable steps to reduce fraud induced money transfers;
  • a hotline system – telephonic and electronic – where employees and agents can report noncompliance with anti-fraud measures;
  • sound mechanisms to evaluate actual fraud rates and consumer losses from fraud induced money transfers in order to utilize that information to improve compliance; and
  • continued enhancement of technology solutions, including its Anti-Fraud Alert System (AFAS).

Second, MoneyGram has agreed to pay a total of $13 million dollars to the states to fund a nationwide consumer restitution program, and for the states’ costs and fees.  The settlement provides for an independent third party settlement administrator who will review MoneyGram records and send notices regarding restitution to all consumers who are eligible to receive restitution under this settlement. Generally, consumers who are eligible for restitution previously filed complaints with MoneyGram between July 1, 2008 and August 31, 2009, regarding fraud-induced transfers sent from the U.S. to foreign countries other than Canada.

If you are determined to be eligible for restitution under the settlement, the settlement administrator will send you a notice in the mail together with instructions.  MoneyGram estimates consumers should receive notices before June 1, 2016. More information about this settlement is available at the Settlement Administrator’s website: www.MoneyGramSettlement.com. You may also call 888-566-1411 for general information.

In addition to Mississippi, 48 other states and the District of Columbia participated in the settlement.


Ridgeland Resident Arrested for Child Exploitation

February 10, 2016
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David L. Nelson, 69, of Ridgeland, has been arrested and charged with one count of exploitation of a child, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Nelson was arrested late Tuesday evening at his home by investigators of the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force with assistance of investigators with the Ridgeland Police Department, an ICAC Task Force Affiliate. It was discovered he was trading child pornography online using sophisticated technology.

Nelson was booked into the Madison County Jail with no bond pending an initial appearance in Madison County Justice Court. If convicted, he faces up to 40 years behind bars.

As with all cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

 


Fifth Circuit Reverses Court of Appeals Injunction Against Executions in the State

February 10, 2016
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit today reversed an injunction by Federal District Judge Henry T. Wingate stopping all executions at the request of three death row inmates.  The inmates and their anti-death penalty lawyers claimed that the protocol used by the State to administer lethal injection drugs was unconstitutional, in spite of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2015 that upheld the exact same protocol.  The appellate court overturned the district court ruling that prevented Mississippi from conducting executions using that exact same three-drug administration. The three-judge panel said the convicted killers would be unlikely to prove in court that the execution method violates their due process rights as their particular challenge to the state’s lethal injection protocol is a matter of state law.

“For years and years, anti-death penalty groups have clogged the courts with bogus legal claims that only delay justice for murder victims and their families,” Attorney General Hood said.  “If these anti-death penalty groups want to change the law, they should be lobbying the Legislature to change the law to stop use of the death penalty, not filing frivolous claims attempting to dupe judges into stopping executions at the last minute.”

The appeals court said convicted murderers Richard Jordan, Ricky Chase and Thomas Loden Jr. are unable to demonstrate the state would violate their rights under the 14th Amendment. The court cited a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s three drug lethal injection protocol, which is the same as Mississippi’s. Jordan and Chase are plaintiffs in the suit. Loden intervened in the case and Roger Thorson has filed as an intervenor as well.

Attorney General Hood said these types of challenges to the drugs used in executions, which will undoubtedly continue, demonstrate the clear need for the Mississippi Legislature to designate alternative methods of execution, in the event that either the drugs become unavailable or the lethal injection protocol is held to be unconstitutional. The availability of drugs used in lethal injection has diminished in recent years as drug manufacturers and suppliers have yielded to pressure from death-penalty opponents.

Attorney General Hood’s legislative agenda includes a bill that would establish alternative methods.

“I respect people’s opinions for and against the death penalty. Even some of my closest friends do not necessarily agree with certain uses of the death penalty.  However, until the Legislature changes the law it is my duty to enforce it,” Attorney General Hood said. “Due to these frivolous lawsuits, I requested that the Legislature consider alternative means of execution that have been constitutionally upheld, including use of the gas chamber.  Unfortunately, a few of the headline editors singled out firing squads from several alternatives.  I have also urged the Legislature to pass legislation to protect the identity of pharmacists and the state executioner to prevent anti-death penalty zealots from threatening these people assisting the state in carrying out state law. I will continue to fight for the verdicts handed down by Mississippi juries, and I will work to make sure that courts uphold Mississippi state law.”


Consumer Alert: Online Dating Scams Leave Broken Hearts, Empty Wallets

February 10, 2016
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No doubt countless Mississippians will celebrate this Valentine’s Day with someone they met online. Dating websites and social networking apps can be beneficial to those looking for love, but others may fall victim to con artists only looking for money.

Attorney General Jim Hood today encouraged Mississippi consumers to learn how to spot “sweetheart scams” in order to prevent their friends and family from having both broken hearts and empty wallets.

“Scammers may create fake social media or dating website profiles and pretend to have a romantic interest in someone, when really their only interest is in deceiving people into sending money,” Attorney General Hood said. “These manipulators will lie about their backgrounds and their whereabouts and even propose marriage if they think they can bilk their victims out of a few more dollars.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimated that victims of online dating scams lose an average of $100,000 to their fake suitors, and that, in the last six months of 2014 alone, Americans lost a total of $82 million to the scam. Of the victims, approximately 82 percent are female.

According to the FBI, the most common targets of these scammers are women over 40 who are divorced, widowed or disabled, although the agency stresses that everyone is at risk.

Typically, scammers build a connection with their victim before eventually asking victims to send money. Some people may even be asked to cash fake checks or ship stolen merchandise unwittingly.

Fortunately, there are some specific warning signs of con artists on online dating sites.

Attorney General Hood urged consumers to be cautious about online relationships with anyone who:

  • Immediately professes love
  • Quickly wants to communicate through personal e-mail or instant messaging services instead of through the dating site.
  • Claims to be an American who is living or working overseas.
  • Seeks money to supposedly cover expenses for various items like trips or medical emergencies, or because they claim themselves to have been victims of crime.
  • Cancels plans to meet or visit their supposed love interest because of unforeseen events.

Attorney General Hood said consumers should never wire money to someone they meet online. Once money is wired, especially if it is wired to a foreign country, it is almost impossible to recover. Consumers who want to date online should go to websites that are reputable and widely known.

For more information about online dating scams, as well as other important consumer tips, visit the Attorney General’s website, www.AGJimHood.com, or call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (800) 281-4418.


Lafayette County Hospital Paramedic Arrested for Sexual Battery of a Vulnerable Person

February 10, 2016
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Bryan Englebert, 36, of Walnut, has been arrested for sexual battery of a vulnerable person, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Englebert was arrested Monday by investigators with the Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with assistance from the Alcorn County Sheriff’s Department on a warrant obtained from the Lowndes County Justice Court. Englebert is charged with one count of sexual battery of a vulnerable person.

The defendant was booked into the Lowndes County Jail. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 30 years in jail and $10,000 in fines.  As with all cases, the defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by Joe Sanderson and Barrick Fortune and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Mark McClinton and Katie Moulds of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

 


Attorney General Jim Hood Commends AG Investigator Doug Tyrone for being named Investigator of the Year

February 9, 2016
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Pictured above (left to right): Attorney General Jim Hood, Investigator Doug Tyrone of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, and Jerry Brown of Discover’s Enterprise Threat and Intelligence Management Division.

Doug Tyrone, a long time investigator for the Office of the Attorney General, has been named Investigator of the Year by Discover Financial Services, Inc., for his dedication to stopping identity theft and other financial crimes, Attorney General Jim Hood announced today.

Tyrone is an investigator in Attorney General Hood’s Consumer Protection Division. Tyrone was presented the award today by Jerry Brown of Discover’s Enterprise Threat and Intelligence Management division.

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Consumer Protection Investigator Doug Tyrone

“Doug T. will hound identity thieves into submission and fight for victims of identity theft and credit card fraud day and night,” Attorney General Hood said. “Doug is well known among credit card and identity theft investigators throughout the nation. In my 25 year history with the Attorney General’s Office, I have not known a more dedicated fighter for keeping consumers in Mississippi safe.”

Brown said when presenting the award to Tyrone: “Before I met Doug, I was told that if you wanted to get the job done in Mississippi, you’ve got to reach out to Doug Tyrone. Since then, I have worked with Doug several times, and I know that’s true. Doug Tyrone will work tirelessly to help in any way he can.”

As an investigator for the Office of the Attorney General, Tyrone helped break up one of the largest stolen and counterfeit check rings in Mississippi history, and he has investigated many international identity thieves. He also aids victims of ID theft in repairing their credit and reclaiming their identity.

In addition to his investigative work, Tyrone frequently offers fraud awareness seminars for community and civic groups. He has worked for the Office of the Attorney General for a total of 24 years, and he was also a division director for the Mississippi Gaming Commission.


Booneville Resident Going to Prison for Con Game Against Elderly Victim

February 8, 2016
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Jessica Plaxico, 30, of Booneville, is going to prison for a con game she perpetrated upon an elderly victim, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Plaxico pleaded guilty to one count of false pretense Friday before Tippah County Circuit Court Judge Andrew K. Howorth. Judge Howorth sentenced Plaxico to serve 10 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with four years to serve, day-for-day, and six years suspended as a habitual offender. Plaxico was ordered to pay $7,928.50 in restitution to the victim, $500 to the Mississippi Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund and court costs. Following release from prison, Plaxico must serve five years of post-release supervision.

Plaxico admitted to taking more than $7,900 in the scheme. The victim believed she was helping the defendant after she contacted her and asked her for money that she would repay once a medical lawsuit she pretended to be involved in was settled. 

“We thank Judge Howorth for the substantial sentence and ordering the defendant to pay back what she took from the victim,” said Attorney General Hood. “We also thank and appreciate Tippah County Sheriff Karl Gaillard and his deputies for their assistance with this case. This should be a warning to any type of con-artist that we will not tolerate this type of criminal activity in our state and you will get caught and serve time.”

The case was investigated by Jamie Thompson and prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stan Alexander of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division.