Canton Man Sentenced on 2 Counts of Insurance Fraud

November 13, 2019

A Canton man who attempted to defraud the cities of Brandon and Pearl will spend time in prison for insurance fraud, Attorney General Jim Hood announced.

Rodriquez Sago, 43, pleaded guilty Tuesday to two felony counts of insurance fraud. Rankin County Circuit Court Judge Dewey Arthur sentenced Sago to three years to serve in prison with an additional three years to serve on post-release supervision.

Sago was arrested by the Mississippi Department of Corrections in June 2019 following his indictment by a Rankin County grand jury. At the time of the crime, Sago filed false insurance claims that stated city workers who were landscaping city property caused several rocks to hit his windshield and damage it. The damage did not occur at the time he made the claim nor was the damage caused by the cities accused. Sago accused the City of Pearl for causing damages in June and July of 2017 and the City of Brandon in June 2018.

“We thank Judge Arthur for putting this con-artist behind bars so he can hopefully think about his senseless acts of filing these fictitious claims,” General Hood said.

This case was investigated by Justin Harris and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brad Oberhousen, both with the AG’s Public Integrity Division.


Former Hinds County Deputy Sheriff Sentenced for Sexual Battery

November 7, 2019

A former Hinds County deputy sheriff will spend time in prison for sexual battery of a 15-year-old girl, Attorney General Jim Hood announced.

Jason Pittman, 26, of Jackson, pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of sexual battery. Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Tomie T. Green sentenced Pittman to 15 years in prison with five years to serve and 10 years suspended. Additionally, Pittman must register as a sex offender. Pittman was arrested in November 2018. At the time of the crimes, Pittman worked as a music minister at a church in Terry, where he met the 15-year-old victim.

“I appreciate Judge Green for her sentence and the investigators who worked to hold this man responsible for his crime,” General Hood said. “All of those who commit these types of inexcusable crimes should expect to be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

This case was investigated by AG Investigators Crystal Palmer and Lisa Edwards. Prosecution was handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Brad Oberhousen of the AG’s Public Integrity Division. 

 


19-year-old Vicksburg Man Arrested for Child Pornography

November 1, 2019

A Vicksburg man was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of child exploitation for possession of child pornography, Attorney General Jim Hood announced.

Eric Maurice Wilson, Jr., was arrested at the Warren County jail after an investigation into his suspicious online activity. Investigators seized multiple electronic devices. Wilson was booked and his bond was set at $10,000.

If convicted, he faces up to 40 years in prison. 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 the AG’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force with assistance from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, which is an ICAC affiliate. Prosecution will be handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn.

 


Former Clerk in Raleigh Arrested for Embezzlement

October 31, 2019

A former clerk of the town of Raleigh was booked into the Smith County jail following an indictment charging her with embezzlement, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Helen Bounds, 57, of Mize, turned herself in to authorities Wednesday following her indictment by a Smith County grand jury on one count of embezzlement. Bounds is accused of converting to her own use excessive multiple and single monetary payments totaling more than $23,048.39 while employed as clerk for the town of Raleigh.

If convicted, Bounds faces up to 20 years in prison. 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 of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division with assistance from the State Auditor’s Office. Special Assistant Attorney General Brad Oberhousen will handle prosecution.


Kemper County Man Sentenced on Charges of Rape and Incest

October 30, 2019

55-year-old Andrew McGraw, from Kemper County, is going to prison after being convicted for raping a relative who is a vulnerable adult, Attorney General Jim Hood announced.

McGraw was arrested in February 2018 and charged with one count of rape and one count of incest. He was convicted for both counts today by a Kemper County Circuit Court trial jury. DNA evidence was presented to the jury as proof the crime occurred and the jury reached a verdict in approximately 15 minutes. Kemper County Circuit Court Judge Charles Wright sentenced McGraw to serve 25 years for rape and 10 years for incest to run consecutively, which is a total of 35 years for him to serve.

“This office continues to fight for and protect our most vulnerable who cannot fight for themselves,” General Hood said. “We appreciate the strong sentence handed down by Judge Wright to this sickening defendant for his disgusting predatory acts against the victim.”

This case was investigated by Michael Mattox of the Kemper County Sheriff’s Office, along with Investigators Crystal Palmer and Tonya Mangus of the AG’s Public Integrity Division. Prosecution was handled by Assistant Attorney General Stanley Alexander and Special Assistant Attorney General Dana Sims.


AG Sends More than $36.4 Million to State General Fund

October 29, 2019

Attorney General Jim Hood delivered a $36,481,061.22 check to the Mississippi state general fund Tuesday that included settlement monies recently collected and recommended using the money for funding and expanding early childhood education statewide.

The nine settlements mostly include data breach, antitrust and other consumer protection cases. The money is placed into the state’s general fund and appropriated by the Legislature; however, General Hood is required by state law (Mississippi Code Section 7-5-63), to make recommendations to the legislative leadership on how the money should be spent.

In the attached letter to legislative leadership, General Hood recommended the money be spent on quality early childhood education programs, including fully funding and expanding the Early Learning Collaboratives Program (ELCs), a quality, state-funded pre-k program already in place. However, in the current school year, there are only 19 ELCs across the state serving under 3,000 four-year-old students.

“We already have a quality, state-funded pre-k program in place,” General Hood said. “Unfortunately, our Lt. Governor has failed to fund this program at the full amount allowed by state law every year. We should be investing in more students to attend ELCs across the state. Investing in quality early childhood education programs is fundamental to long-term economic success. In education, our state trails almost every other. We must start our children reading earlier by providing four-year-old kindergarten statewide.”

In the 2018-19 school year, only about 36% of incoming kindergarteners achieved the target score on the kindergarten readiness assessment. However, students in state-funded pre-k programs scored much better, with ¾ scoring above the readiness benchmark.

General Hood proposes allocating the full $36.4 million to fully fund the program that the ELC Act allows, which costs $33.95 million per year. “After that, I’d like the legislature to expand the program, using the remaining $2.58 million as a starting point,” General Hood said. “If we start to fully fund and expand this program, we can provide a state-funded pre-k classroom for every four-year-old not already served by another early learning program. This is essential for better preparing children for kindergarten and traditional K-12 school.”

A breakdown of settlements is attached.

“The money I’ve sent over to the Legislature is extra money they now have to spend on one of the most critical programs in our state that hasn’t been prioritized under current legislative leadership,” General Hood said. “I sincerely hope the Legislature will carefully consider how this money is dispersed and remember the positive impacts these quality early childhood programs have on our children, families, and Mississippi’s future. There should be nothing partisan about meeting the needs of our children across the state.”


AG HOOD GIVES NOTICE THAT STATE WILL SUE U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS

October 24, 2019

Today Attorney General Jim Hood announced that he will file suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to require the federal government to pay for the extensive environmental and economic damage to the Mississippi Gulf Coast caused by the repeated and lengthy openings of the Bonnet Carré Spillway in 2019.  The lawsuit, which will be filed in the name of the State of Mississippi, will also seek to protect the Gulf Coast from future damage by requiring the Corps to adopt updated and scientifically sound methods of flood control and by requiring the Corps to consider the impacts of spillway openings on Mississippi. Federal law requires the State to give the Corps 60 notice before filing the lawsuit.

“Mississippi should not be the federal government’s dumping ground for polluted flood waters,” General Hood said. “Our State’s environment and economy must be considered and protected just as the Corps protects the environment and economy of our neighboring states.”

The Bonnet Carré Spillway was opened for a record 123 days in 2019. Based on Corps’ numbers, a total of 1.35 trillion cubic feet (almost 10 trillion gallons) of Mississippi River water was discharged through the spillway during 2019. That discharge is equivalent to the volume of more than 15 million Olympic-size swimming pools which, if laid end to end, would circle the Earth more than 18 times. According to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, the fresh water of the Mississippi River carries with it industrial pollutants from 31 states and two Canadian provinces. When the Corps repeatedly opened the Bonnet Carré Spillway in 2019, trillions of gallons of this polluted fresh water was dumped into the Mississippi Sound.    

The environmental and economic damage to the Mississippi Gulf Coast from the influx of trillions of gallons of polluted fresh water has been devastating. The Mississippi Sound is home to abundant populations of oysters, crabs, shrimp, fish, and dolphins.

“The spillway opening has destroyed the State’s oyster reefs, decimated the crab and shrimp catch, and killed more dolphins than the 2010 BP Oil Spill,” General Hood said.

Recreational fishing has been damaged because of toxic algae blooms caused by the influx of fresh water. Coast beaches were closed to swimming during the height of the tourist season because of the algae blooms. The full extent of the damage to Mississippi’s environment and economy may not be known for years. And worse yet, repeated openings of the Bonnet Carré Spillway in 2019 and future years will likely cause more overall harm to Mississippi than the one-time BP Oil Spill. 

The Attorney General has three goals for this lawsuit against the Corps. First, General Hood will seek to recover funds to compensate for the harm to the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s economy and environment. Second, General Hood will seek to recover funds to rebuild and rehabilitate the oyster reefs and other damaged marine habitat and populations. Third, General Hood will seek to limit future damage by directing the Corps to study the environmental impact of spillway openings on the Mississippi Sound and to adopt new procedures for flood control. The protocols for operating spillways are outdated, having been established in the 1930’s and 1950’s, and do not address the present and future conditions of the Mississippi River. General Hood stated: “The current approach to managing the Mississippi River must be reexamined. The Corps must look both up-river and down-river to find ways to better protect Mississippians and the Mississippi Sound.  I refuse to accept that the country that tests rocket engines at the Stennis Space Center cannot find a way to manage the Mississippi River without harming the Mississippi Sound.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way. This lawsuit will give the Corps the will to change its practices to protect Mississippi.” 

“Our State is blessed with abundant seafood and beautiful beaches. Many hardworking Mississippians depend on fishing and tourism to make a living. For too long, Mississippi’s interest have been ignored. If we do not take immediate action to require the Corps to change its approach to flood control and limit the use of the Bonnet Carré Spillway, these ways of life will be threatened,” General Hood said. The Attorney General is also working with the Secretary of State who serves as the State Land Commissioner to explore all options concerning damages to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  “As we move forward, I intend to work closely with all stakeholders, including the Gulf Coast’s county and municipal officials, along with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, to ensure that the Corps fully understands the damage caused to the Mississippi Sound.”

The lawsuit will seek relief under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and contain other claims under federal law and Mississippi law.

***CLICK HERE FOR A COPY OF THE NOTICE


Coast Man Pleads Guilty to Possessing Child Pornography

October 22, 2019

42-year-old Richard Joseph McIntyre, of D’Iberville, will spend 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to downloading and possessing child pornography, Attorney General Jim Hood announced.

McIntyre was arrested at his home in May 2017 following an investigation by the AG’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force into McIntyre’s online activity. The investigation revealed that McIntyre was downloading and possessing images and videos of child pornography on his cell phone.

McIntyre was sentenced on one count of child exploitation Monday by Harrison County Circuit Court Judge Roger Clark. Judge Clark sentenced him to 40 years in prison with 10 years to serve and five years on supervised post-release supervision. McIntyre must also pay $1,000 to the Crime Victims Fund, $1,000 to the Children’s Trust Fund, and he must register as a sex offender.

“Thanks to the sentence handed down by Judge Clark putting this defendant behind bars ensuring he pays the consequences for the disgusting criminal acts he committed when he downloaded photos and videos of innocent children engaging in sexually explicit conduct,” said General Hood. “I am also proud of the collaborative efforts by my office and the D’Iberville Police Department, as we all have the same goal of putting these sick-minded predators behind bars, away from our children.”

This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn of the AG’s Cybercrime Unit.