Mississippi’s Fallen Law Enforcement Officers Honored During Candlelight Vigil

May 7, 2014
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Attorney General Jim Hood joins the Mississippi Chiefs of Police in hosting the fourth annual “Mississippi Fallen Law Enforcement Officer’s Candlelight Vigil”.  The event will be held Tuesday, May 13 at 6:00 p.m.  at the Statewide Fallen Officers Memorial between the Sillers and Gartin Justice buildings off High Street in downtown Jackson.

“Mississippi lost too many heroes in the line of duty last year,” said Attorney General Hood.  “We will especially honor each one of their sacrifices, along with that of the other 221 officers on our memorial.” 

Mississippi’s most recent fallen officers are:

RANDY JUNIOR BOYKIN  03/19/2013      Chief of Police     Enterprise Police Department.

ERIC TYRONE SMITH SR   04/04/2013      Detective            Jackson Police Department

BRUCE DANIEL JACOB     07/20/2013      Police Officer      Jackson Police Department

KEITH ALAN CRENSHAW  10/23/2013       Corporal            Eupora Police Department

CLINTON HUGH FRAZIER   12/18/2013     Corporal            Union County Sheriff’s Office

KEVIN GALE STAUFFER JR  12/23/2013   Sergeant           Tupelo Police Department

“We are grateful that we have had no line of duty deaths in 2014,” said Ken Winter, Executive Director of the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police.  “We hope we never have to engrave another name on this memorial wall.”

The keynote speaker for the event is Governor Phil Bryant. 

Members of the public, along with family  and friends of any Mississippi law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty, are invited to join officers from the Mississippi Chiefs of Police Association, the Mississippi Sheriffs Association, the Mississippi  Highway Patrol, the Mississippi Wildlife and Fisheries Department, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, and the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office at the event.


New Albany Nurse Arrested for Medicaid Fraud and Illegally Obtaining a Controlled Substance

April 30, 2014
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A New Albany nurse has been arrested on charges of Medicaid Fraud and Illegally Obtaining a Controlled Substance, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Shawna Russell Smith, 48, turned herself in Tuesday at the Union County Sheriff’s Office following indictment by a Union County Grand Jury.  Count One of the indictment alleges that Smith, while employed as a registered nurse at a care center in New Albany, did illegally take for her own use one tablet of hydrocodone, which had been prescribed for a patient and then filed a claim with the Mississippi Division of Medicaid for reimbursement for the drug.  Counts Two and Three allege that Smith did illegally obtain possession of one tablet of Hydrocodone on two separate occasions involving two other patients and allegedly converted them to her own use.

Smith was booked into the Union County Jail and released on a $10,000 bond.  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 and prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

Attorney General and Board of Contractors Warn Storm Victims of Post-Storm Dangers

April 30, 2014
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Attorney General Jim Hood reminds recent storm victims of the dangers that come from crooked contractors following disasters and storm damage like the State has recently seen.

Following the cycles of recent storms, the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office (MSAGO) and the Mississippi State Board of Contractors (MSBOC) are joining forces to send a message to crooked contractors that bad business will not be tolerated in the Magnolia State and violators will be prosecuted.

“Our thoughts go out to our friends and neighbors around the state who have been impacted by the recent storms,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “As usual after such widespread damage occurs, crooks will be on the prowl looking to take advantage of the misfortune of vulnerable homeowners. Before you hire someone to repair any damage to your property, be sure to educate yourself on how to best protect yourself.”

“We caution storm victims to know who you are dealing with and do not hire the first contractor who comes along,” said Stephanie Sills Lee, Executive Director for the MSBOC. “Take your time and protect yourself against con artists who will take your money and run or from unskilled contractors who will perform careless work.”

Most of the common “after-disaster” scams involve tree damage caused by the storm. Here are some tips to protect yourself from fraudulent tree cutters:

• Check out the company and make sure the company is insured. Contact our Consumer Protection Division or the Better Business Bureau of Mississippi to see if they have complaints against the company. Ask for several local references that are recent of at least one year-old and make sure to follow through on checking them. Look online at reviews of their work. If a tree removal service claims to have insurance, contact the insurer directly and ask them to send you a copy of the tree removal service’s certificate of insurance.

• Take time to shop around and be suspicious of any price that seems unusually high or low. Get written estimates from more than one company and check with friends or family who’ve had tree work done recently to see what they paid and who they would recommend.

• Ask how the job will be done and if they will perform the work according to industry standards. Pay attention to their “lingo” such as, “topping a tree,” “lion’s-tailing” or “using climbing spikes to prune a tree” If you hear these sayings, the company more than likely does not follow industry standards. “Topping” is drastically cutting back the major limbs of a tree to reduce its size. “Lion’s tailing” is an extreme stripping out of most of the interior branches of a tree. Such practices can injure or kill your tree. Sometimes these techniques will be presented as a way to save money by removing more of the tree at one time. However a tree pruned by one of these methods usually requires more expensive restoration work in the future in order to save it.

• Ask about cleaning up and the debris removal after the job is done. Before the job is started, ask if the company will remove the tree from your property as well as cut it down because if they don’t, it could lead to you having to also pay for debris removal.

“Since our honest builders are so busy after disaster strikes, many people are hesitant to demand all of the suggested information for fear of losing the builder,” said Attorney General Hood. “That’s why we are joining forces with the Board of Contractors to offer these guidelines and suggestions to help consumers avoid possible misunderstandings about tree cutters and home repair contractors.”

Some tips recommended by both agencies to protect yourself from crooked contractors:

• Hire only licensed and bonded contractors. Ask to see the license and verify the bond.

• Use Mississippi contractors if you can.

• Verify the contractor’s license by checking online at www.msboc.us

• Be wary of supposed contractors who come to your home soliciting business. Most reputable contractors will be busy and won’t need to solicit business.

• Always get more than one estimate. Three bids are recommended.

• Request references and talk with those references.

• Put all your terms in writing. A copy of a “model contract” can be found at www.agjimhood.com

Attorney General Hood reminds consumers that the most effective way to prosecute a fraudulent home repair contractor is by taking photo or video of them. “At the very least, record your conversations when you discuss the terms of the contract and during all transactions. Usually, a con artist will take off at the mere mention of a video recording, but either way, you will have better peace of mind to be able to identify them if they do turn out to be a fly-by-night operation.”

A conviction for Home Repair Fraud could result in up to ten years behind bars. The MSAGO and the MSBOC both intend to prosecute, to the fullest extent of the law, anyone caught committing home repair fraud.

In the aftermath of any storm or any other time, if you suspect home repair fraud or think you may have been conned by a scam artist, please contact the Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division at 601-359-4230 or 1-800-281-4418 to file a complaint. Consumers can check a contractor’s qualifications or file a complaint with the MSBOC by calling 1-800-880-6161 or by visiting www.msboc.us. A copy of the Attorney General’s “Consumer Tips for Storm Victims” can also be downloaded at www.agjimhood.com. More resources and tips can be found on both agencies’ websites.

Lauderdale County Resident Arrested For Exploitation of a Vulnerable Person

April 29, 2014
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A Lauderdale County resident has been arrested for the exploitation of a vulnerable person, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Bertha Jenkins has been arrested following indictment by a Lauderdale County Grand Jury. Jenkins is charged with one count of exploitation of a vulnerable adult. She was booked in the Lauderdale County Jail.

“We appreciate the assistance we received from Sheriff Billy Sollie and his officers during this investigation and arrest,” said Attorney General Hood.

Jenkins is accused of using funds of a nursing home resident, with whom she was acquainted, in the amount of $5,377.35 over a period of 33 months.

If convicted, Jenkins faces up to 10 years in prison. As with all cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by Victor Mason and will be prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stanley Alexander of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division.

Tennessee Resident Arrested For Exploitation of a Vulnerable Person

April 18, 2014
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A Tennessee resident has been arrested at his home for the exploitation of an elderly female resident of Mississippi, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Ralph Paul Henson, 67, of Seymour, Tennessee, was arrested Thursday by the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office (TN), after being indicted by a Rankin County Grand Jury. Henson is charged with two counts exploitation of a vulnerable person. He was booked into the Sevier County Jail and is awaiting extradition back to Mississippi.

“We appreciate Sheriff Ronald Seals and his officers for their assistance with this arrest and during our investigation,” said Attorney General Hood.

Henson is accused of exploiting the elderly woman while he was acting as her power-of-attorney which designated him to handle certain affairs for her while she was in a nursing facility. Henson is alleged to have used the victim’s checking account and credit card in an amount exceeding $20,000 for his own purposes.

If convicted on both counts, Henson faces up to 20 years in prison. As with all cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by Investigator Jamie Thompson and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Larry Baker of the Attorney General’s Office, Public Integrity Division.

Pearl River County Resident Going to Prison for Fondling of Vulnerable Person

April 18, 2014
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A Pearl River County resident has been sentenced to prison for fondling a vulnerable person, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Brandon Rawlings, 26, of Pearl River County appeared Thursday before Pearl River County Circuit Court Judge Anthony Mozingo for sentencing after a jury found him guilty April 8 of fondling a 72 year old patient for the purpose of gratifying his lust. At the time the crime was committed, Rawlings was employed as a direct care worker for Magnolia Personal Care Home in Picayune. Judge Mozingo sentenced Rawlings to serve the maximum 15 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

“This office will keep working relentlessly to catch and put behind bars those who are mistreating our most vulnerable residents,” said Attorney General Hood.

The case was handled by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

Attorney General Hood Joins Multi-State Discussion on Copper Theft

April 14, 2014
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Jackson, MS–Attorney General Jim Hood, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper and representatives for Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell met in Memphis today for a roundtable discussion on the growing concern of copper theft.

Representatives from Mississippi’s Secretary of State’s Office, Agriculture Commission and Department of Public Safety also attended the Memphis meeting along with the FBI and law enforcement representatives for the following counties: Warren, Humphries, Jefferson, Desoto, Holmes, Issaquena, Sunflower and Washington.

“Copper thieves are stripping irrigation systems and buildings costing farmers and building owners tens of thousands,” said Attorney General Hood. “Due to high metal prices, metal of any kind, from cars on the side of the road to implements in the field, is being stolen at an alarming rate. I appreciate my colleagues in Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee joining me to discuss the issue and formulate workable law enforcement initiatives and create contacts among law enforcement agencies and farmers in our four states.”

Intergovernmental cooperation is important because thieves often cross county and state lines to sell stolen metal.

“Thieves who strip copper from irrigation systems are causing devastating property damage that can be crippling to our farmers,” said Attorney General McDaniel. “It is critical that the states in our region strategize collaboratively to prevent this crime. I’m fortunate to already have strong working relationships with the attorneys general in Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. I think today’s meeting was very constructive and will surely lead to progress in apprehending copper thieves.”

Mississippi and Arkansas are using a statewide electronic reporting system created by LeadsOnline called the Metal Theft Investigations System. The system allows law enforcement and metal recyclers to share information and track suspicious scrap metal sales.

Tennessee is also grappling with copper theft.

“In Tennessee, scrap metal dealers register with and are regulated by the Department of Commerce and Insurance,” said Tennessee Attorney General Cooper. “We continue to be concerned about the theft and sale of scrap metal and are happy to share information and ideas with authorities in neighboring states to curb this nationwide problem.”

Louisiana Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell echoed the other AGs’ concerns.

“The theft of copper from refrigeration units, air conditioners, and irrigation systems has become an epidemic,” Attorney General Caldwell said. “And it could get worse as metal prices go higher. We four AGs in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana are joining forces to crack down on the ease with which copper thieves operate. I’ve never seen cooperation across state lines this good which means citizens in our region will see better protection.”

Cleveland Caregiver Charged with Exploitation

April 9, 2014
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A Cleveland caregiver is facing charges today that she exploited the couple she was hired to take care of, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Lisa Boyd Smith, 44, of Boyle, turned herself in to the Bolivar County Sheriff’s Office Friday (April 4) following indictment by a Bolivar County Grand Jury on two counts of exploitation of a vulnerable person.

Smith is accused of taking $7,987.59 from the accounts of a Cleveland couple for whom she was hired to be a caretaker. Smith is alleged to have used the couple’s bank cards to make purchases and get cash for her own purposes, while employed by the couple.

If convicted, Smith faces up to 10 years behind bars on each count. 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 Russell Frazier and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin L. Sanders of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division/Vulnerable Adults Unit.