Adams County Woman Going to Prison for Exploitation of Vulnerable Person

November 10, 2015

Evelyn Whatley, 59, of Natchez, has been sentenced after she admitted to taking $43,980 from a vulnerable woman in her care, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Whatley appeared before Judge Forrest A. Johnson in Adams County Circuit Court on Monday and plead guilty to one count of exploitation of a vulnerable person. Judge Johnson sentenced Whatley to six years in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, five years suspended with one year to serve and five years of post-release supervision.  She was also ordered to pay the full restitution of $43,980 to the victim.

At the time crimes were committed, Whatley was hired to be the caretaker of the victim.  Following the death of the victim earlier this year, a close relative discovered several suspicious ATM transactions from two of the victim’s bank accounts. The investigation uncovered approximately 114 unauthorized transactions made by Whatley totaling $43,980. Several transactions were made after the death of victim.

“This case is a good example of why it is so important to look after your loved ones accounts and report discrepancies,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “There is no tolerance in this state for such abuse and our office is deeply committed to protecting our state’s most vulnerable residents. We will continue to prosecute anyone doing them harm as well as make them pay back what they took.”

The case was investigated by Russell Frazier of the Attorney General’s Vulnerable Adult Unit and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Larry Baker and Rachel Emfinger.


Meridian Direct Care Worker of State Hospital Arrested for Sexual Battery of a Vulnerable Person

November 9, 2015

LaCarlos Presswood, 35, of Meridian, has been arrested for sexual battery of a vulnerable person while employed as a Direct Care Worker of a state hospital, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Presswood turned himself in to Investigators of the Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit today following an indictment by a Lauderdale County Grand Jury for one count of sexual battery of a vulnerable person.

The indictment alleges Presswood “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously engaged in sexual penetration with a vulnerable adult, as defined in §43-47-5 (q), of the Mississippi Code of 1972 Annotated, as amended, while being an employee of the health care facility in which the victim was a patient or resident.” The victim is an adult male patient at East Mississippi State Hospital.

Presswood was booked in to the Lauderdale County jail where he is awaiting arraignment.  If convicted, he faces a maximum of 30 years in jail and $10,000 in fines. As with all cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by Trey Rogers of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Prosecution of the case will be handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Garland Lyell.


Attorney General Jim Hood Warns Mississippians of IRS Scammers Searching for their Next Victim

November 3, 2015

Attorney General Jim Hood wants to remind Mississippi consumers to remain cautious of tax-related phone scams.

Meredith Aldridge, Director of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division said, “These scammers continue to search for their next victim before, during and even after tax season.”

The scammers call claiming to be an agent for the IRS or the Federal Treasury Department.  The victim is told “this is their Official Final Notice – the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you”.  He or she “owes money to the IRS” and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, the scammer threatens the victim with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license.

Victims may even be told they have a refund in an effort to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request. These con artists are intimidating and sound convincing, using fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may even know a lot about their targets, and they may even alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.

Director Aldridge, warns consumers not to fall victim to these con artists or others like them. “The answer is simple for this and other similar phone scams.  Do not share or verify any personal information over the phone.  If it sounds too good to be true or is suspicious, don’t take the action requested.”

Attorney General Hood offers the following information and tips to avoid these type scams:


  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card, or request that you wire a payment.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Use email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue involving bills or refunds.

If you know YOU OWE taxes or think you might owe the IRS any amount, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.

If you know you DON’T OWE taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-­366-4484 or at

Follow these KEY TIPS for this scam and others similar to it:

  • DO NOT answer the phone for a number you do not recognize or that shows up as your own.
  • If you do answer, HANG UP the minute you realize it is a scam. Even answering simple questions in the affirmative or negative could be used to try to scam you.
  • BE SUSPICIOUS of anyone who is vague in identifying themselves on the phone.
  • NEVER wire or send money in any form to persons or organizations you do not know.
  • ALWAYS protect your personally identifiable information.  Giving out personal information out could cause you to become a victim of identity theft.

For more educational information on this and other scams, please visit the Consumer Protection Division section of the Attorney General’s website at Anyone who suspects their personal information has been compromised or thinks they have been a victim of fraud, identity theft or any other should call the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office for further assistance and guidance at 1-800-281-4418.

Mississippi Death Row Inmate Loses Appeal to Supreme Court

November 2, 2015

The United States Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal for Mississippi Death Row Inmate Thomas Loden, Jr.  Loden appealed his case claiming ineffective assistance of counsel.  Today’s decision represents Loden’s final opportunity to appeal his case. 

Today’s decision should have been the final hurdle before the State sets an execution date for Loden, however, on August 25, 2015, in a short written order, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, issued an injunction against any executions by lethal injection in the State of Mississippi.  This hasty decision by the District Court has enjoined the State from using the very same lethal injection drug protocol recently approved by the United States Supreme Court on June 20, 2015 in the case of Glossip v. Gross, 135 S. Ct. 2726.  The District Court also enjoined the State from executing an inmate by any other alternative means. 

Attorney General Jim Hood said, “I applaud the United States Supreme Court, and I am sorry that justice for the victims families must be delayed yet again.  Today’s decision should have brought this case to a quick close with a scheduled execution date.”

“We have appealed the injunction which stopped all executions in Mississippi,” said Attorney General Hood, “Thomas Loden, savagely raped and tortured a teenage girl; he video-taped his acts, and then strangled her to death.  The moment this injunction is lifted and executions resume, I will file to set an execution date for Loden.”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled an oral argument for December 2, 2015 in the joint case involving  Richard Gerald Jordan, Ricky Chase, and Thomas Loden, Jr., in which executions were halted.


Mississippi Supreme Court Upholds $30,110,618 Ruling Against Sandoz, Inc. for Common-Law Fraud and Violations of the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act

November 2, 2015

The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld a $30,110,618 ruling against generic pharmaceutical provider, Sandoz, Inc. and affirmed that the company committed common-law fraud against the State of Mississippi and violated the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

“This is a significant victory for the tax payers of Mississippi who were cheated by Sandoz, Inc. of more than $23 million dollars when the company lied about its prices and defrauded the state,” said Attorney General Hood.

The Attorney General’s Office filed suit against Sandoz, Inc. after discovering that from 1991 to 1999 the company reported over-inflated fictitious “Average Wholesale Prices” (AWPs) to the national data service used by Mississippi and other states to calculate the reimbursement of pharmaceuticals purchased from Sandoz, Inc.  After a ten day trial in April, 2011, Rankin County Chancery Judge Thomas Zebert ruled that the company committed common-law fraud, that it violated the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act, and that Mississippi was overcharged $23,661,618 as a direct result of the falsified AWPs by Sandoz.  Judge Zebert also ordered Sandoz to repay the $23,661,618, as well as $2,699,000 in civil penalties and $3,750,000 in punitive damages for its fraudulent conduct for a total of $30,110,618.

In a decision handed down Thursday, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed each of Judge Zebert’s rulings.  Justice Chandler wrote, “Sandoz’s practice of reporting false AWPs was a deceptive trade practice. The “prices” were exaggerated to an extent that they were not even prices. Providing false information is deceptive and violates the Act.”

“This company had a net worth of some $500 million dollars and basically stole $23,661,618 million dollars from the tax-paying consumers of one of the nation’s poorest states.” said Attorney General Hood.

The Division of Medicaid (DOM) provides healthcare assistance, including prescription drug coverage, to Mississippians who meet a specific lower income threshold.  The AWP provided by a pharmaceutical company to the national data service was the most important figure in the formula to determine the price used by Medicaid.  The AWP was defined as the average price paid to the wholesaler for a particular drug, yet in 1998 Sandoz bragged to a client that it reported the AWP for one drug as $86 dollars, but the actual price would be only $7.16.

Attorney General Hood said, “Any company which falsifies data in order to overcharge consumers should be held accountable.  Sandoz fabricated prices and Mississippi consumers paid heavily.  I thank the learned, late Judge Tom Zebert, who spent hundreds of hours on this complex case, and the members of our Supreme Court who helped us protect the consumers of Mississippi.”

As a result of this claim against Sandoz and similar AWP claims against more than 50 pharmaceutical companies, most of which settled, the Attorney General’s Office has recovered $147,422,012 for Mississippi.


Hinds County Resident Going to Prison for Child Pornography

October 30, 2015

Cameron Travelstead, 25, of Jackson, is going to prison after his conviction in a child pornography case, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.  

Travelstead was sentenced Thursday by Hinds County Circuit Judge Jeff Weil, Jr. on one count of possession of child pornography. Travelstead was convicted by a Hinds County Jury on October 16, 2015, following a week-long trial.

Judge Weil sentenced Travelstead to 20 years with 12 years to serve and five years of post-release supervision. He must also register as a sex offender upon release. Travelstead will not be released until October 2027.

Travelstead was arrested following a joint investigation involving the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children task force, the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office (an affiliate of the task force), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  The investigation found Travelstead was downloading and sharing hundreds of images and videos of child pornography.

“We do appreciate the jury for a just verdict and Judge Weil for handing down such a strong sentence, as well as the hard work of the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office,” said Attorney General Hood. “This sentence shows the dedication and commitment of our state’s District Attorneys, the FBI and law enforcement agencies statewide working together in the fight to protect our children in Mississippi from child predators.”

The case was tried jointly by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn and Jamie McBride of the of the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office.



Local Oxford and Picayune Restaurants and Bars Receive Six Total Citations for Selling Alcohol to Minors

October 29, 2015

Investigators with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Alcohol & Tobacco Enforcement Division recently conducted alcohol and beer compliance checks in Oxford and Picayune resulting in the issuance of six total citations for selling alcohol to minors.

In Oxford on October 23, the following businesses received citations when checked for compliance on selling alcohol to minors:


  • Frank & Marlees        1210 Harrison Avenue            2 VIOLATIONS
  • Rib Cage of Oxford    311 South Lamar Boulevard   VIOLATION    2nd Offense w/in a year
  • Soulshine Pizza Factory         308 South Lamar Boulevard   VIOLATION

The following businesses in Oxford did not receive a citation when checked for compliance on selling alcohol to minors:

  • 4 Corner Chevron                               502 South Lamar Boulevard
  • Double Quick #24                               1401 Jackson Avenue
  • Kendall’s Gas Mart                             1455 South Lamar Boulevard
  • Lamar Express                                   1448 South Lamar Boulevard
  • Lamar Lounge                                     1309 North Lamar Boulevard
  • Levee of Oxford                                 1008 Jackson Avenue
  • Proud Larry’s                                      211 South Lamar Boulevard
  • Sky Mart Grocery                               825 College Hill Road
  • Spot Store                                           1438 North Lamar Boulevard
  • The Corner Bar                                   1002 Jackson Avenue East

The following businesses in Oxford did not let anyone under the age of 21 inside:

  • Funkys                                                1012 Jackson Avenue
  • Rooster’s Blues House                       114 Courthouse Square
  • The Round Table on the Square        132 Courthouse Square
  • The Library                                          120 South 11th Street
  • The Oxford Cellar                               135 South 10th Street

Attorney General Hood pre-warns, “If you sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, you will pay a stout fine to the State between $500-$1,000 for a first offense, and if you continue to sell you could lose your permit to sell and possibly face a fine of $1,000-$2,000, and up to a year in jail. We appreciate the support and commitment of local law enforcement agencies, and I am certain that our combined efforts will vastly help reduce the sale of alcohol to underage drinkers.”

“At the core of this law is the safety of our young people. It simply states that it is illegal in Mississippi to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 21,” said Attorney General Jim Hood.

In Picayune on October 21, the following businesses received citations when checked for compliance on selling alcohol to minors:

  • Applebee’s                                          715 Memorial Boulevard                    VIOLATION
  • El Mariachi                                          1210 S. Hough Avenue                      VIOLATION

The following businesses in Picayune did not receive a citation when checked for compliance on selling alcohol to minors:

  • The Italian Grill                                    1702 Hwy. 11
  • Rio Grand Grill                                    1413 Armand Drive

“We conduct alcohol checks frequently,” said Attorney General Hood. “In these routine checks, we issue citations to bartenders or servers. We like to keep vigilance high, particularly in college towns, but also in surrounding areas, that we are out enforcing our state’s alcohol and tobacco laws statewide.”

Attorney General Hood concludes, “The Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Division provides training for staff and management of any retail establishment which sells alcohol.  I urge business owners and managers to contact my office, and ask for on-site training. The lives of our children and loved ones are at risk whenever alcohol consumption and driving are mixed.  Other dangers include binge or excessive drinking which can also result in overdose, an accident or injury. Retailers who are vigilant in following the law can significantly improve a safe environment for all.”

During the past fiscal year, the Attorney General’s Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Unit has conducted more than 6,000 compliance checks with 203 buys for a 3.28% buy rate across the state.  


Former Greenwood Police Officer Faces Child Exploitation Charges

October 29, 2015

A former Greenwood Police Officer is facing multiple charges relating to child exploitation, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Christopher Earl McDonald, age 36, of Carroll County, is charged in a nine count indictment after an investigation by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office with assistance from the Greenwood Police Department.  McDonald was indicted by a Carroll County Grand Jury on three counts of enticing a child to meet for the purpose of engaging in sexually explicit conduct; three counts of enticing a child to produce visual depictions of sexually explicit conduct; and three counts of sexual assault by a person in a position of trust or authority over a child.

McDonald was arraigned before Circuit Judge Joseph Loper, Jr. on October 20, 2015.  McDonald pleaded not guilty, and was allowed to remain out on an existing bond of $30,000.  If convicted, McDonald can face up to 40 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines on each of the six enticing counts in the indictment.  If convicted, McDonald can also face up to 30 years in prison for each of the three sexual battery counts. 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 Gypsi Ward of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Victim Assistance with assistance from the Greenwood Police Department and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Paula Broome and Pat McNamara.