A Tishomingo County Woman is Sentenced for Exploitation of a Vulnerable Person

May 1, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Tishomingo county woman pled guilty and was sentenced on one count of exploitation of a vulnerable person.

Scharla Huff, 39, of Tishomingo, Mississippi, was arrested on March 6, 2017, following an investigation by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with assistance from the Tishomingo County Sheriff’s Department.  Huff was indicted by a Tishomingo county grand jury on one count of exploitation of a vulnerable person for participating in a scheme to steal and cash checks belonging to a vulnerable person.

Huff recently pled guilty in Tishomingo Circuit Court before Circuit Judge Paul S. Funderburk.  She was sentenced to 10 years with the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with five years suspended leaving five years to serve, followed by five years of post-release supervision.  She was also ordered to pay full restitution to the victim, as well as $100 to the Mississippi Crime Victims Compensation Fund and $500 in fines.

“Financial predators often target our most vulnerable people; we appreciate the work and cooperation of everyone involved in this investigation and prosecution,” Attorney General Hood said.

The investigation was led by Joe Sanderson, investigator, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and it was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Mark Ward.


Lee County Woman Going to Prison and Ordered Full Restitution for Embezzlement of a Vulnerable Adult

April 17, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Saltillo woman has been sentenced to prison for embezzlement and ordered to pay $162,000 in restitution to the victim.

Dorothy Whaley, 66, appeared before Judge Thomas J. Gardner, III, in Lee County Circuit Court on Wednesday, April 12,  for sentencing on one count of Embezzlement. Judge Gardner sentenced Whaley to 10 years in prison with five of those years suspended, leaving Whaley with five years to serve. She was ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, $200 for investigative costs and $100 to the Mississippi Crime Victim Compensation Fund. Additionally, she must pay full restitution of $162,000 to the victim.

The defendant and her daughter, April Whaley were arrested on February 13, 2014. In addition to the embezzlement count, Dorothy Whaley was charged with exploitation of a vulnerable person. At the time of the crime, Dorothy Whaley was serving as a caretaker for a woman with dementia. An investigation revealed that the mother and daughter exploited the victim in taking approximately $162,000 from the victim’s checking accounts and retirement savings and converting them to their own use. Dorothy Whaley also quitclaimed two of the victim’s properties to herself.  The value of the properties exceeded $200,000.

Dorothy Whaley stood trial in Lee County Circuit Court last November. The trial jury failed to reach a verdict on the exploitation count but Whaley was convicted of embezzlement. Prior to Whaley’s sentencing Wednesday, she voluntarily re-conveyed all the real property, which was the subject of the exploitation count to her victim.

In August 2016, April Whaley entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to serve one year in prison and ordered to pay $33,000 in restitution following her conviction of exploitation of a vulnerable person.

“It is truly tragic when a caretaker, like a parasite, preys on his or her vulnerable charge, and I thank Judge Gardner for sentencing this defendant to pay full restitution, and time to serve in prison,” Attorney General Jim Hood said.  “I encourage family members and friends to thoroughly check the employment background and call the references of anyone hired to provide caregiving services to a vulnerable person.  If you suspect that a neighbor, friend or loved one is being preyed upon by a caregiver or service provider, call my office.”

The case was investigated by Russell Frazier and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Robert G. “Bob” Anderson and Lakeita Rox-Love of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division/Vulnerable Adults Unit.


Marion County Resident Arrested for Possession of Child Pornography

April 13, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Columbia man has been arrested and charged with one count of child exploitation.

Jovon Eugene Kendrick, 24, was arrested at his home Wednesday by investigators with the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit with assistance from the Columbia Police Department.

Investigators executed a search warrant following an investigation of Kendrick’s online activity. As a result of the search warrant, he was arrested.

Kendrick was booked into the Marion County Detention Center with a bond set at $40,000. If convicted, he faces up to 40 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. As with all cases, 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 will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn of the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit.

 


Starkville Man is Charged with Felony Abuse of a Vulnerable Person

April 10, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Starkville man has been arrested and is charged with felony abuse of a vulnerable person.

Cleatonia “Tony” Burns, 34, is accused of allegedly striking a 21 year old patient who is intellectually and physically disabled causing pain or injury at a time that Burns was employed as a direct care provider at Brandi’s Hope Community Services in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Investigators with the Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit conducted the investigation with assistance from the Tupelo Police Department.  Burns was arrested at his home in Starkville with assistance from the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department, and he was booked into the Lee County Jail then released on a $5,000 bond. His arraignment date is set for July 5, 2017.

“There is no excuse to strike a patient, especially one who is intellectually and physically challenged,” Attorney General Hood said.  “Caregivers provide critically needed services for our vulnerable population, whether elderly, adolescent or disabled.  Good caregivers are a lifeline for those they help and do all they can to make a patient comfortable.  I appreciate the special services they provide, but I warn offenders that any infraction will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted.”

Burns was arrested on a probable cause warrant signed by Lee County Circuit Judge Jim S. Pounds.  If convicted, Burns faces up to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.  As with all cases, 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 is being investigated by Joe C. Sanderson, and prosecution will be handled by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.


A Benton County Woman is Charged with Exploitation of a Vulnerable Person

April 7, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Benton County woman is under arrest and is charged with exploitation of a vulnerable person.

Melissa Collins, 39, of Hickory Flat, Mississippi, voluntarily surrendered today at the Union County jail.  Collins was employed with Total Care Services of Greenwood, MS.  She served as an aide and was being paid by the Division of Medicaid to provide homemaker services at a patient’s home in New Albany.  Collins is accused of illegally using the patients debit card over a period of several days to make four withdrawals of $100 each from the patients bank account, without the patients consent.  The Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit conducted the investigation.

In-home services not only allow a patient to retain the dignity and comfort of their own home, they also typically represent a cost savings over the cost of facility care,” Attorney General Hood said.  “When a service provider exploits a vulnerable patient by gaining his or her trust to steal,  it can be devastating to the victim both emotionally and financially.”

Collins is free on a $10,000 bond.  If convicted, she will face up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.  As with all cases, 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.  The case was investigated by Joe C. Sanderson and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Mark Ward.

 


Lucedale Resident Going to Prison for Child Exploitation

April 7, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Lucedale resident is going to prison for child exploitation.

Daniel Bryan Weaver, 36 pleaded guilty Thursday in George County Circuit Court to one count of child exploitation. Judge Dale Harkey sentenced Weaver to 40 years in prison with 32 of those years suspended, leaving eight years to serve followed by five years of post-release supervision. Weaver was ordered to pay $1,000 to the Mississippi Children’s Trust Fund, $1,000 to the Mississippi Crime Victim Compensation Fund and $5,000 in fines. He must register as a sex offender.

Weaver was arrested in October 2014 by investigators with the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit following an investigation that revealed Weaver was searching for and downloading videos and images of child sexual abuse.

“A child is abused every single time a picture or video is downloaded and viewed, and we will continue to lock-up those who victimize our children,” Attorney General Hood said. “We thank Judge Harkey for the time given to this defendant to serve in prison and the money he must pay back to our children’s trust fund and crime victims.

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


Madison County Man Sentenced for Burglary and Assault

March 31, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Canton resident is going to prison after being found guilty of burglary of a dwelling and intent to assault.

Chad Bowman, 38, was sentenced today by the 16th Circuit Court Judge James T. Kitchens, Jr., for one count of burglary of a dwelling with the intent to commit assault. Bowman was convicted by a Noxubee County jury following a five-day trial. The jury deliberated for three hours prior to returning the guilty verdict.

Bowman was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with 10 of those years suspended, leaving 10 years to serve behind bars, followed by five years of post-release supervision. Additionally, Judge Kitchens ordered Bowman to pay $500 in fines and court costs and Bowman must not make further contact with the victim and is banned from entering Noxubee County for five years.

The burglary and assault took place in the early morning of October 18, 2014, in Noxubee County. An investigation revealed that Bowman drove from Canton to a cabin in Noxubee County. Bowman broke into the cabin and assaulted the victim, who was staying in the cabin.

“We thank the jury for its time and verdict in this case, and I thank Judge Kitchens for his sentence,” Attorney General Hood said.

The Attorney General’s Office took over the case following a recusal by the 16th Circuit Court District Attorney’s Office.  The case was investigated by Larry Ware of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division. Prosecution was handled by Assistant Attorney General Stanley Alexander and Special Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Purdie.


TUPELO WOMAN ARRESTED FOR FELONY ABUSE OF A VULNERABLE PERSON

March 28, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Lee County woman has been arrested for felony abuse of a vulnerable person.

Bridgett Copeland, 42, of Tupelo, was arrested by investigators with the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Friday, following her indictment by an Itawamba County grand jury for one count of felony abuse of a vulnerable person. Copeland was booked into the Itawamba County jail and released on a $25,000 bond. Her arraignment date is set for July 27.

The indictment alleges that last June, Copeland intentionally sprayed Perineal Wash, a blue liquid chemical, into the eyes of a patient while Copeland was employed as certified nurse aide at a nursing and rehabilitation facility in Fulton.

If convicted, Copeland faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum of $20,000 in fines. As with all cases, 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 is being investigated by Joe C. Sanderson, and prosecution will be handled by Mark Ward the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.