Tupelo Resident Assistant Arrested for Possession of Controlled Substance

April 4, 2016
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Angela Sweat, 37, of Tupelo, has been arrested for alleged possession of a controlled substance, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Sweat turned herself in to authorities Friday following an indictment by a Lee County Grand Jury on one count of acquiring or obtaining possession of a controlled substance or a legal drug by larceny, embezzlement, misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge.

At the time the crime is alleged to have been committed, Sweat was working as a Resident Assistant at a facility in Tupelo.  The indictment alleges that Sweat obtained Norco, a controlled substance, that was prescribed to and purchased for a patient at of the facility.  She alleged converted the pills for her own use.

Sweat was booked into the Lee County jail and posted a $3,000 bond.  The defendant faces a maximum of five years in prison and $1,000 in fines. As with all cases, a charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by Joe Sanderson and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Mark McClinton of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.  The Lee County Sheriff’s Department assisted with the investigation.


Gulfport Resident Arrested for Exploitation of a Vulnerable Person

March 29, 2016
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Stephanie Craig, 46, of Gulfport, has been arrested for Felony Exploitation of a Vulnerable Person, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Craig turned herself in today to the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department for three counts of Felony Exploitation of a Vulnerable Person. As a result of an investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Craig is accused of exploiting monetary funds of an 87-year-old man on multiple occasions.

Craig was booked into the Harrison County Jail and later released after posting a bond totaling $15,000. If convicted on all three counts, Craig faces up to 30 years in prison and a total of $15,000 in fines. As with all cases, a charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by Jake Windham and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Katie Moulds of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

 


Attorney General Jim Hood Reminds Consumers to be Cautious and to Avoid Scammers and Con Artists during the Tax Season

March 29, 2016
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With the April 15 tax deadline quickly approaching, Attorney General Jim Hood is reminding Mississippi consumers today to be vigilant about scams and identity theft associated with tax returns.

Identity thieves may attempt to steal a consumer’s personal information and their money using a variety of methods including bogus phone calls or emails. These brazen criminals may even claim to be associated with the IRS, or they may create look-alike emails or websites as part of their deception. Information collected by these types of scammers may be used to file false tax returns under a consumer’s name or Social Security number.

“Some criminals will do whatever it takes to get their hands on someone else’s tax refund money,” Attorney General Hood said. “Consumers should always be cautious about what types of sensitive financial or personal information they are sharing, and they should also be certain that correspondence from the IRS or other agencies is legitimate.”

The IRS has safeguards to protect against fraudulent tax returns and ID theft, but consumers can also help protect themselves by never divulging Social Security, credit card or tax information to anyone who isn’t a licensed tax professional or certified financial advisor, or to a legitimate service for e-filing your tax return.

To help you avoid being scammed this tax season, Attorney General Hood has provided you with a list of tax safety tips and urges you to educate yourself about the warning signs of tax scams and schemes:

  • BE SUSPICIOUS of any calls or emails purporting to be from the IRS, no matter what the issue. Instead, hang up and call the IRS back at the number you know to be correct. Use caution when opening attachments or downloading files from emails, regardless of the sender. Do not call or text a number left in the message or follow the internet links to a site.
  • NEVER confirm your Social Security number or bank account details by email or over the phone.
  • GUARD your mail because it’s especially attractive at tax time. Ideally, have your mail delivered to a P.O. Box or purchase a locked mailbox, and mail tax returns and sensitive information directly from the post office.
  • USE CAUTION when choosing an online tax preparation service. Make sure they are reputable and have adequate security measures in place. Ask important security questions, such as how their information is protected during and after preparation, how long they keep copies of your tax return, and whether they conduct background checks on their employees. Be careful when typing in the URL or web address of an online service. If you misspell the name, you could end up on a fraudulent site that looks like the real one.
  • SHRED all unnecessary documents or copies when tax season is over. Dumpster divers will be on the prowl to get your banking account details and SSNs.
  • CHECK your credit report immediately after tax time and again a few months later to make sure your personal information wasn’t stolen and is not being used against you. Continue to check your credit report on a regular basis.
  • ALWAYS keep your anti-virus software up to date to make sure your computer is free of malware like computer viruses and spyware. Use a firewall to help make you invisible on the internet and to block communications from unauthorized sources.

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


Pontotoc Man Arrested for Failure to Pay Child Support

March 23, 2016
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Joe Oscar Coptane, 35, of Pontotoc, has been arrested for failure to pay child support, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Coptane was recently booked into the Lee County Jail following his indictment by a Lee County Grand Jury for two counts of failure to pay child support.

As a result of an investigation conducted by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Child Desertion Unit, Coptane is accused of the willful neglect or refusal to provide for the support and maintenance of his two minor children. He is alleged to owe approximately $28,000 in back child support.

If convicted, Coptane faces up to five years in prison and a $500 fine on each count. No court dates have been set at this time. As with all cases, a charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Purdie of the Attorney General’s Child Desertion Unit.

 


Attorney General Jim Hood Reminds Consumers to Remain Vigilant Against Phishing Attacks

March 17, 2016
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Attorney General Jim Hood today reminds Mississippians to continue to be wary of phishing attacks from all sources, including text messages.

Attorney General Jim Hood warns consumers not to respond to text messages or emails saying that you’ve won a prize, gift card or you have been granted money from a foundation or other charitable entity. Unsolicited messages like this are almost always a scam.

“It is very common for scammers to send emails or text messages to potential victims with the goal of getting these victims to send money or to obtain sensitive information like bank account or credit card numbers,” said Attorney General Hood. “Educating yourself about how these scams work is a consumer’s best defense to becoming a victim.”

As technology has advanced and consumers communicate more through text messages, email, and social media, phishing scams have moved to these formats.  Identity theft occurs daily, with new forms of phishing attacks constantly arising. Some tips to avoid these scams:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited e-mails or text messages requesting personal or financial information.  Legitimate companies don’t ask for this information via email or text message.
  • Do not click on any attachments associated with such emails or text messages, as they may contain viruses or malware.
  • Be immediately suspicious of anyone who emails or text messages you unexpectedly and wants you to wire money–especially out of the country.
  • Don’t email or text personal or financial information. These are not secure methods of transmitting personal information.

Another scam that has been seen most recently is from a fraudulent charity that calls itself the Tom and Cathy Rae Foundation. This charity scam circulates in a variety of forms, particularly through email and text message. The message states the consumer has been granted a large sum of money and asks that you donate the money to the foundation, which reaches out to the needy around the world. The namesakes of the so-called foundation are lottery winners based in Missouri, who say no such foundation exists.

To ensure that a charity is legitimate, consumers may contact the Secretary of State’s Office at (601) 359-1048 or visit www.sos.ms.gov to make sure the charity is registered with the state. A charity that operates without such registration is violating the law and should be seen as a red flag for consumers.

If you do receive a phishing email or text message, forward the message to the business purporting to send it so that they can be aware their good name is being used in a phishing attempt.  If you have provided information in response to a phishing scam, contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office at (800) 281-4418 to learn what steps you should take to protect yourself. Consumers are encouraged to visit www.AGJimHood.com for more information related to phishing scams.


Two Harrison County Sisters Indicted for Workers Compensation Fraud

March 16, 2016
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Pictured left: Detria Vogle; Pictured right: Rachel Vogle

Two Harrison County sisters have been indicted on multiple charges of workers compensation fraud, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Detria L. Vogle, 39, of Biloxi, and Rachel C. Vogle, 36, of Gulfport, were arrested by deputies from the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. The arrests were made following indictments by the Harrison County Grand Jury. Both Detria Vogle and Rachel Vogle were charged with four counts each of workers compensation fraud.

The indictments allege that Detria Vogle and Rachel Vogle made “false or misleading statements or representations to the Mississippi Insurance Guaranty Association, for the purpose of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits” that were intended for their deceased father. Neither defendant notified the Association that their father was deceased and instead, the Vogle sisters continued to receive workers’ compensation benefits between August 2011 and December 2014.

Both defendants were booked into the Harrison County Adult Detention Center and are currently awaiting trial. If convicted, each faces up to 12 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. As with all cases, a charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Larry Baker and investigated by Christopher Watkins and Ronnie Odom of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division/Insurance Integrity Unit.

 


Attorney General Jim Hood’s Consumer Protection Division to Offer Information, Assistance to Flood Victims at Three Locations Next Week

March 16, 2016
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Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that representatives from the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office will be in Washington, Pearl River and Coahoma counties next week to provide important information and answer questions from consumers affected by recent flooding.

The Attorney General’s staff will offer educational materials related to home-repair scams and natural disaster recovery. Consumers will also be able to pick up free copies of sample contracts that homeowners can use when contracting for post-flood home repairs.

Employees of the Consumer Protection Division will also be available to meet with consumers who wish to file consumer complaints or have other consumer-related questions.

“Mississippians who lost their homes because of these devastating floods don’t need further injury from unscrupulous contractors or scammers,” Attorney General Hood said. “We want to make sure that consumers know their rights and are equipped with the tools to prevent fraud and scams as they get back on their feet.  Consumers can meet face-to-face with my staff and get their questions answered.”

Consumers who are unable to attend one of the events in person are encouraged to visit www.AGJimHood.com for more information. Consumer complaints may also be filed online. Anyone requesting materials by mail may call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 281-4418.

The Attorney General’s Office will be in Greenville and Picayune on Tuesday and in Clarksdale on Wednesday. Specific locations are:

Greenville
Tuesday, March 22
9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Washington County Courthouse
900 Washington Ave.

Picayune
Tuesday, March 22
9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Margaret Reed Crosby Memorial Library
900 Goodyear Blvd.

Clarksdale
Wednesday, March 23
9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Clarksdale City Hall
121 Sunflower Ave.

Attorney General Hood encourages Mississippians to be cautious when hiring home-repair contractors for flooding or storm damage and to use contractors within the state. Consumers should ask for several local references and hire only licensed and bonded contractors.


Louisiana Woman Going to Jail for Forgery and Grand Larceny

March 14, 2016
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Nicole Mata, 30, of Ridgecrest, Louisiana, pleaded guilty today to forgery and theft from a senior citizen in her care, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Mata appeared before Judge Forrest A. Johnson in Adams County Circuit Court. She pleaded guilty to one count of “uttering a forgery” and one count of grand larceny. Judge Johnson sentenced Mata to serve five years in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, three years suspended with two years to serve and three years of post-release supervision. She was also ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution to the victim.

“We appreciate Judge Johnson’s sentence,” Attorney General Hood said. “Hopefully, it will deter others from taking advantage of Mississippians who are part of our Greatest Generation.”

The Attorney General’s investigation showed that Mata, while serving as a domestic helper for a Natchez senior citizen, forged a check on the senior citizen’s account and stole some of the victim’s jewelry.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stan Alexander and investigated by Russell Frazier of the Attorney General’s Vulnerable Adults Unit.