AG Hosts 11th Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony in Memory and Honor of Mississippi Crime Victims

December 8, 2014
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Attorney General Jim Hood is hosting the 11th annual tree lighting ceremony today in memory and honor of Mississippi crime victims and those who work to serve them.

The event will be held today at 10:30am, at the Attorney General’s Office building, in the lobby of Walter Sillers, 550 High Street in Jackson.

Mississippi crime victims who have survived violent criminal acts will be honored and the surviving family members of homicide victims will be recognized at the ceremony.

“Just hearing the stories behind each ornament placed on the tree touches my heart and provides great motivation for this office,” said Attorney General Hood.  “It is our opportunity to show survivors of violent crimes and their families that they are not alone and that we grieve with them.  This event also gives us time to recognize and thank victim advocates and criminal justice officials for their diligent efforts and hard work throughout the year to provide services to these victims, survivors and their families.”

Throughout the year, the Bureau of Victim Assistance of the Office of the Attorney General works diligently to increase the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, promote the fair and compassionate treatment of victims of crime, ensure victims are afforded their constitutional rights and considerations, and provide financial assistance with losses resulting from injuries or death.

In FY2014, the division paid $3,628,465.61 in victim compensation benefits. To date, the total victim compensation benefits awarded (FY2005 – FY2014) total $28,718,984.10. The division operates with revenue derived from fees and assessments imposed on criminals, court ordered restitution and federal grants.

For more information on the services provided by the Bureau, please call 800-829-6766 or 601-359-6766 or visit www.agjimhood.com.


ATTORNEY GENERAL JIM HOOD ANNOUNCES $3.8 MILLION MULTISTATE SETTLEMENT WITH SIRIUS XM

December 4, 2014
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Attorney General Jim Hood, along with the attorneys general of 44 states and the District of Columbia, announced today that Sirius XM Radio Inc. of New York has agreed to pay $3.8 million to the states and to provide reimbursement to eligible consumers to resolve claims that the satellite radio company engaged in misleading advertising and billing practices. Consumers who have not previously filed a complaint with their attorney general for the practices covered by this settlement have until May 3, 2015, to file a complaint to be considered for reimbursement.  The amount a consumer can recover is not limitedand will be based on the actual loss of the consumer. “I hope eligible Mississippians will take advantage of the settlement so they can get their money back,” said Attorney General Hood. The attorneys general allege that Sirius XM engaged in unfair and deceptive practices.  The states were particularly concerned about cancellation requests that were not honored, automatic renewals which occurred without consumers’ notice or consent, and unauthorized fees. Under the terms of the settlement, Sirius XM will make significant changes to its business practices.  Specifically, Sirius XM agrees to:

  • Clearly disclose all terms and conditions at the point of sale,
  • Make no misrepresentations about the available plans,
  • Provide advance notice of upcoming automatic renewals for plans longer than six months,
  • Improve cancellation procedures, and
  •  Prohibit incentives for customer service representatives based solely on retaining customers who attempt to cancel.

To be considered for reimbursement under this settlement, consumers must file a complaint concerning conduct from July 28, 2008, to Dec. 4, 2014, involving an identifiable loss that was not previously resolved.  An example of identifiable loss might include a loss of money from instances where the consumer unsuccessfully tried to cancel or did not want to renew, but found themselves stuck paying for another term. Identifiable loss may also include a loss of time, such as when the conversation took much longer than reasonably expected due to problems with customer service. Consumers who have a complaint regarding Sirius XM’s business practices addressed by this settlement are urged to contact their state attorney general at 1-800-281-4418 or to file complaints with Sirius XM directly before May 3, 2015. Consumer complaints can be sent to Sirius XM by mail to PO Box 33059, Detroit MI  48232-5059, by going to www.siriusxm.com and using the search tool or the “contact us” portion of the web site, or by going to www.siriusxm.com/settlementprogram.


Public Employee Indicted in Adams County for Embezzlement

November 25, 2014
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A Natchez resident is facing embezzlement charges following indictment by an Adams County Grand Jury, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Charles Nations, age 42, of Natchez, was arrested Monday following indictment by  an Adams County Grand Jury on one count of embezzlement by a public employee. The indictment alleges that Nations, while serving as the Director of the Adams County Juvenile Justice center, embezzled over $100,000.00 from bank accounts that belonged to the Adams County Juvenile Detention Center.  Nations will be arraigned Wednesday morning in Adams County.

If convicted, Nations faces up to 20 years behind bars and a $5,000 fine.  As with all cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by Roger Cribb of the Attorney Generals Public Integrity Division and will be prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stan Alexander.


Attorney General Warns Holiday Shoppers of Payment Card Vulnerabilities

November 24, 2014
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As the holiday shopping season gears up this week, Attorney General is warning holiday shoppers of payment card vulnerabilities.

“In the past, shoppers only had to worry about someone snatching their wallets, including their cash, and credit or debit cards,” said Attorney General Hood. “Now, credit card payment information can be stolen by invisible thieves who may have hacked into the retailer or restaurant’s payment system.”

Until updated payment card technology is implemented, consumers should exercise extreme caution when using debit or credit cards, especially debit cards. Debit cards are especially sensitive because the cards allow access to the consumer’s bank account. Recognizing an unauthorized user will be more of a challenge for retailers, banks and credit card companies with the high volume business the holiday season brings. To best protect yourself, here are some recommendations from the Attorney General:

  • Consumers should regularly monitor their credit card and bank statements especially during and following the holidays. It can take 7 to 10 days for a card to be reissued if it is compromised. As a result, shoppers need to be prepared to use cash in the event their card is compromised so that they are not prevented from completing their holiday shopping or essential purchases.
  • When shopping online, shoppers are advised to watch for unsolicited fake emails which are not related to their actual purchases.  Shoppers are encouraged to utilize credit cards or small amounts of cash when shopping in person. However, the Attorney General does not encourage consumers to travel with large amounts of cash.
  • Shoppers should use trusted websites and look for those with security certifications such as VeriSign or TRUSTe. A good rule of thumb is to look for an “s” in the website’s address line or the URL.  “HTTPS” indicates a safe and secure site.  Please keep in mind that U.S. law enforcement can assist you more easily if a problem arises with a U.S.-based online merchant rather than a foreign business.

Scammers will also try to take advantage by calling consumers regarding an alleged  breach or compromise and pretending to be a legitimate financial institution. They can even spoof and use the institution’s real phone number. Remember, your financial institution will never initiate a call to you and then ask you to verify your account or personal information on the phone. Consumers are advised to hang up the phone without talking to the person and immediately speak to their bank in person or call the financial institution on a phone number with which they are familiar, not the number provided by the scammer.

For more information on holiday shopping safety, see the Attorney General’s publication Holiday Consumer Safety Tips for Holiday Shopping available at www.agjimhood.com, under “media center”, then “publications”.


North Carolina Resident Arrested for Cyberstalking Two Mississippians

November 20, 2014
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A North Carolina resident has been arrested and charged with 10 counts of cyberstalking involving two Mississippians, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Roderick Arrington, 34, of Hamlet, NC was arrested Wednesday by the Rockingham Police Department and the Hamlet Police Department at his place of employment in Rockingham, North Carolina based on an investigation conducted by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit.

Arrington is alleged to have created fake yahoo email accounts from which he allegedly sent repeated, threatening emails to the two victims, both residents of Hinds County.

“We are unable to release more details at this time because the investigation is ongoing,” said Attorney General Hood.  “However, we do appreciate the assistance of the U.S. Marshal’s Office, Hamlet North Carolina and Rockingham North Carolina Police Departments—all of whom worked quickly upon being notified of our warrants in this case”.

Arrington is currently in the Rockingham Police Department jail pending an extradition hearing today.  If convicted of all the charges, he faces up to 20 years behind bars. As with all cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.


Deadbeat Dad Sentenced in Rankin County for Failing to Pay Child Support

November 18, 2014
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A resident of Richland has answered in court for his failure to support his child in Rankin County, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Richard T. Shields, 37, of Richland, pleaded guilty to child desertion Monday in Rankin County Circuit Court before Judge William E. Chapman III.  Shields admitted he has failed to pay $13,200 he owes in support of his two children.  As a result, Judge Chapman sentenced Shields to five years in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with six months already served and 4.5 years suspended on supervised probation so that he could pay the $13,200 that he owes.

“This defendant can choose to work to pay what he owes for his two children, or spend time behind bars for being an irresponsible parent,” said Attorney General Jim Hood.

The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Elliott Flaggs with the Attorney General’s Child Desertion Unit.


Fifth Circuit Agrees with State on Campaign Disclosure Laws

November 17, 2014
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The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has upheld the constitutionality of Mississippi’s campaign disclosure laws.  The Fifth Circuit’s decision Friday reversed a previous holding of the federal district court for the Northern District of Mississippi which had found Mississippi’s campaign disclosure requirements to be unconstitutional.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and Attorney General Jim Hood were named as defendants in the lawsuit and both were represented by the Civil Litigation Division of the Attorney General’s office.

“The Fifth Circuit has confirmed our belief Mississippi has reasonable financial disclosure requirements aimed at informing the public,” said Secretary Hosemann.

“We are grateful that the Fifth Circuit agreed with the State’s position represented by the attorneys in our Civil Litigation Division,” said Attorney General Hood.   “Campaign disclosure laws are important.  Voters are entitled to know who is spending money to buy advertisements to influence their votes.”

The lawsuit was filed in 2011 by a group of persons in Oxford, Mississippi who wanted to spend money to influence voters in connection with constitutional amendments appearing on the November 2011 ballot.  The Fifth Circuit recognized that disclosure requirements are particularly important when constitutional amendments are on the ballot.

“The initiatives on a ballot are often numerous, written in legalese . . . .  Disclosure laws can provide some clarity amid this murkiness,” notes the ruling (full PDF attached).

Click here for a copy of the Campaign Disclosure Laws.


Senatobia Resident Going to Prison for Sexual Battery of a Vulnerable Person

November 14, 2014
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A Senatobia resident has been sentenced to prison for the sexual battery of a vulnerable person, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Roy Wallace Thomas, 70, of Senatobia appeared before Tate County Circuit Court Judge Gerald Chatham Thursday to be sentenced after entering an open plea of guilty to three counts of sexual battery of a vulnerable person.  Judge Chatham sentenced Thomas on each count to 10 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, five suspended, five to serve, with five years on post release supervision.  The sentences are to run concurrent.  The defendant must also register as a sex offender upon release and remain on the registry for life.  Thomas was also ordered to pay a $500 fine, $100 to the Mississippi Crime Victim Compensation Fund and $200 to offset expenses associated with investigation and prosecution.

The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that the defendant engaged in sex at least three times with the victim, who  was in a mental health facility and with whom he had been appointed guardianship following the death of both the victims parents.  The crime occurred at Thomas’ home while the victim was on pass from the mental health facility.

“It is our duty to protect our orphans, our widows and our state’s most vulnerable,” said Attorney General Hood.  “I appreciate the Judge’s ruling which will finally get this defendant off the streets and out of this victim’s life.”

The case was investigated and prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.