Vicksburg Man Faces Charges of Felony False Pretense

December 3, 2015
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Dondi Lee Cotton, 53, of Vicksburg, has been arrested and charged with felony false pretense, announced Attorney General Jim Hood and Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman.

Cotton turned himself into authorities Wednesday following a recent indictment by the Warren County Grand Jury on four counts of felony false pretense.

Beginning in April 2010, when the crimes allegedly started to occur, Cotton made false promises to investors in order to obtain their signature on documents and their monetary investments.

The defendant was booked into the Warren County jail.  If convicted, he faces up to 10 years behind bars and a $10,000 fine for each count.  As with all cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

“Mississippi investors should have confidence when investing their dollars,” said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.  “Our Office does not tolerate securities scams by dishonest individuals who claim to be investment advisors who take advantage of hard working Mississippians.  We appreciate the Attorney General’s Office for their swift work on this case.”

Attorney General Hood concludes, “We appreciate the dedication and great work done by the Secretary of State’s Office on this case, and we look forward to presenting their findings in court.”

This case is being investigated by Investigator Phil Hull, of the Secretary of State’s Office and Investigator Ronnie Odom, of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division.

Prosecution of the case will be handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Larry Baker.

 


Attorney General Jim Hood Warns Consumers of Recent Phishing Emails Sent to Users’ Google Accounts

November 30, 2015

Attorney General Jim Hood warns consumers to be cautious in clicking links contained in any unsolicited emails sent to their email accounts.  One version of this common scam recently reappeared when Google account holders received an email asking the users to review the details of their accounts in order to comply with regulations. These types of scams are commonly referred to as “phishing.”

The new email appears to be from Google and indicates that the user needs to review the details of their Google account in order to comply with governmental regulations. If the user clicks the link, they are directed to a malicious site that will steal their Google credentials and potentially install malicious code onto their computers.

“Our investigators have confirmed this is a phishing scam,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “If you click the link, you will see that the word ‘account’ is misspelled on the website the user is directed to through the link.  Spelling and grammatical errors are telltale signs of a scam.”

If you do have a Google account and receive a similar email, don’t click on the link, and don’t submit any usernames, passwords or personal information via email.  Instead, go to https://accounts.google.com/ and use your secure login to verify any account activity.

If you do receive a phishing email, forward the email to the business purporting to send it so that they can be aware their 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 1-800-281-4418.

 


Attorney General Jim Hood Cautions Consumers and Provides Tips in Preparation for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

November 25, 2015

Attorney General Jim Hood reminds consumers to protect themselves as they prepare to kick off the holiday shopping season, especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“The holiday shopping season is a fun and joyous time of the year.  Unfortunately, it is also a time of the year for many unpleasant shopping experiences,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “Whether you are shopping in stores or online, scammers will attempt to take advantage of innocent people when they are shopping for loved ones.”

As Mississippi stores prepare for the biggest shopping days of the year, Attorney General Hood encourages consumers to take caution and is providing general tips that apply to holiday shopping.

Some general tips Mississippians should be aware of to avoid common holiday shopping pitfalls are:

  • Shop around for the best deal for your needs. Just because an item is on sale, it may not be the best price. Some stores are willing to match, or even beat, a competitors prices. In addition, carefully consider bargain offers like Buy One, Get One Free or Free Gift with Purchase. If you don’t really want or need the free or gift item, it is not a deal for you.
  • Use coupons wisely. Coupons are helpful when they save you money on what you are already planning to buy. Be sure to check coupons for any restrictions.
  • Ask about sale adjustments. If you buy an item at regular price and it goes on sale the next week, check in advance to see if you can get a credit or refund for the discounted amount.
  • Ask about refund and return policies. Many merchants may have different refund and return policies for sale items. For example, clearance merchandise may be on final sale, meaning no refunds or exchanges.
  • Keep an eye on your money – cash or credit. Carry only the cash and credit cards you absolutely need. Don’t flash cash or credit cards for others to see. If your cards are lost or stolen, report the loss or theft immediately to the card issuers, and file a complaint with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office.
  • Know your surroundings. Be very cautious when going to and from your vehicle, especially at night. Try to park in well-lit areas and keep your car keys in hand when walking back to your vehicle.  Place purchases in the trunk, out of plain view.
  • After the rush to stores for good deals on Black Friday, Mississippi consumers should also be smart about Cyber Monday shopping. Cyber Monday, the Monday following Black Friday, is considered one of the busiest days of the year for online shopping. When shopping online, these key tips may save you time and money:
  • Research the seller and the site. Be familiar with the rules and policies of each website. Check feedback for particular sellers when applicable. Be wary of sites that have grammatical errors, broken links, or other signs that may indicate lack of trustworthiness.
  • Examine the whole package. Know what you are buying and the total price. Be sure to factor in shipping costs, return policies such as restocking fees, and similar charges. Be sure you understand what methods of payment are accepted.
  • Look for safety measures on the website. When making a payment online, look for signs the site is secure. Examples include “https” (the “s” stands for secure) in the address, and padlock symbol.
  • Regularly update your computer’s security, including anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Don’t click on a link or open an attachment from an unknown source, and don’t email financial information.
  • Keep good records. Whether you’re ordering by mail, phone, or online, it is important to keep detailed information about the transaction, including your order number, shipping costs and dates, warranties, and refund and return policies.
  • Monitor your credit card transactions. Save your receipts for returns and exchanges. Check credit and debit card sales and return receipts against your monthly bills and statements, and report any problems to the credit card issuer promptly.

Attorney General Hood also wants to remind Mississippians about the dangers associated with counterfeit goods for the upcoming season.

“This type of activity is going on across Mississippi and consumers should keep in mind that exceptionally low prices and suspicious packaging could indicate a counterfeit good,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “Anyone who is selling counterfeit goods in Mississippi should be well aware that he or she will be arrested and will face a serious prison term.”

Contact the Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-281-4418 to report suspected fraud or scams this holiday season.

To learn more about shopping wisely this holiday season, consumers can view and download a copy of the brochure “Consumer Shopping Tips for the Holiday Shopping Season.”

 


19-year-old Brookhaven Resident Going to Prison for DUI Deaths of Two Brookhaven High Students

November 24, 2015

Charles W. Acy, III, 19, of Brookhaven, has been sentenced for aggravated DUI, announced Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Acy appeared before Judge Frank Vollor today in Lincoln County and entered a guilty plea on two counts of Aggravated DUI resulting in death. Judge Vollor sentenced Acy to 25 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, 15 to serve with 10 years suspended, followed by five years to serve post-release supervision on each count. The sentences are to run consecutively with a total number of 30 years to serve.

On October 14, 2014, Acy had been seen driving erratically throughout the day in his 2003 Hummer HH2.  Later that evening, his vehicle collided head on with a Ford F150 in the 900 Block of Union Street in Brookhaven.  The F150 was occupied by 18-year-olds Jevonte Dickey and Shaquan Richardson who were on their way home from a school sporting event. Both victims were pronounced dead. At the time of impact, residents on Union Street reported seeing Mr. Acy’s vehicle swerving from side to side and increasing his speed in excess of 70 miles per hour just seconds before the crash. Acy’s toxicology reports showed he was under the influence of Marijuana and Alprazolam at the time of the crash.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims’ family,” said Attorney General Jim Hood.  “Hopefully this sentence will serve as a reminder to others, especially our youth, who decide to get behind the wheel when they are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Mississippi has penalties for underage drinking, drug abuse and possession of controlled substances. The results of making choices similar to this defendant’s not only messes up your life, but can also bring heartache and devastation to others.”

This case was investigated by Brookhaven Police Department Commander David Johnson and Attorney General Public Integrity Investigators Ronnie Odom and Jerry Spell.

Attorney General Hood concludes, “We greatly appreciate the hard work and support of the Brookhaven Police Department and Judge Vollor’s solid sentence.”

Prosecution of the case was handled by Special Assistant Attorneys General Jim Giddy and Larry Baker.

 

 


Crystal Springs Husband and Wife Indicted for Identity Theft Medicaid Fraud

November 24, 2015

A Crystal Springs husband and wife were arrested Monday after being charged in a multi-count indictment with two counts each of felonious identity theft and two counts each of felonious Medicaid fraud, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

James Jefferson, Jr., age 55, and his wife, Pamela T. Jefferson, age 53, of Crystal Springs, Mississippi were arrested Monday morning, after being indicted by a Hinds County Grand Jury,  by investigators of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Copiah County Sheriff’s office.  According to the indictment, they are each charged with two counts of felonious Medicaid fraud and two counts of felonious identity theft. 

Jefferson and his wife owned and operated Garden of Angels, LLC at the time the crimes allegedly occurred.  The indictment charges the defendants with using the identity of a medical doctor and a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) to bill Medicaid for services that neither the medical doctor, nor the LCSW provided.  Counts I and II of the indictment charge that approximately 269 false claims totaling $408,685.69 were filed against Medicaid in 2013 and 2014. 

Pamela Jefferson and James Jefferson were each booked into the Hinds County Detention Center.  If convicted they can face up to 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine for each of the identity theft charges, and they can face up to five years in prison and up to a $50,000 fine for each of the Medicaid fraud charges.  In addition, the statute requires that they also be assessed a treble penalty of the amount taken.  In this case the penalty could be more than $1,200,000.

The Copiah County Sheriff’s Department provided special assistance during the arrest.  The case was investigated by Investigator Barrick Fortune, RN Investigator Tina Bennett, and Analyst Richard Cameron.  The case with be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Sue Perry.

 

 


Terry Mayor Resigns Following an Open Plea of Guilty for Embezzlement

November 23, 2015

Roderick Nicholson appeared before Rankin County Circuit Court Judge William E. Chapman III today and entered an open plea of guilty to five counts of embezzlement by a public official, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Judge Chapman set Nicholson’s sentencing time and date for 9 a.m. on December 7. During the process of this plea, Nicholson resigned from his office as the Mayor of Terry. Nicholson faces a possible sentence of up to 100 years behind bars, 20 years for each count.

Nicholson was arrested March 30 by special agents from the Auditor’s Office and investigators with the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division following an indictment by a Rankin County Grand Jury on five counts of embezzlement. Nicholson used the city’s credit card to pay for repairs totaling over $2,700 on two personal vehicles. The work was done on five separate occasions at dealerships in Brandon and Flowood.

The case was jointly investigated by the Auditor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stanley Alexander of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division.

 


Attorney General Jim Hood Warns Mississippians of a Recent Spoofing Scam

November 20, 2015

Attorney General Jim Hood is warning Mississippians today of a phone scam that challenges even the savviest consumer.  “Scammers realize that consumers are much wiser and more likely to reject calls from unfamiliar numbers,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “They use caller ID spoofing technology to impersonate a known or trusted phone number to trick potential victims into answering the phone.”

Here is how the scam works.  The phone rings, and we recognize the number on the Caller ID.  The caller id shows that it is a local business, a neighbor down the street, or even the consumer’s own name and number.   Because the number is known or familiar, the consumer answers the phone.

“Unfortunately, technology has evolved, and we can no longer fully trust that the number displayed is the number that is actually calling us,” said Attorney General Hood.  “Our advice has always been to answer only those calls from known numbers, but that won’t work when the caller identification has been spoofed, or is displaying incorrect information.”

Mississippi joined other states in 2010 to enact the Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act (2010 Miss. H.B. 872) to regulate and prohibit caller ID spoofing. However, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the scammers had a first amendment right to spoof phone numbers and upheld the legality of “non-harmful spoofing” in 2012 when it overturned the state law.

The Attorney General’s Office offers the following information and tips to follow on these types of scams:

  • DO NOT answer the phone for a call that shows it is from your own number.  That is a sure sign of a scam.
  • REMEMBER THAT THE CALLER ID CAN BE MANIPULATED. Don’t completely rely on what appears on the screen. Scammers use technology that lets them display any number or organization’s name on your screen.
  • HANG UP as soon as you realize the call 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.
  • DON’T CALL THEM BACK.   If you receive a voice mail message, do not call the scammer back.
  • GUARD YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION.  Do not provide bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers to anyone calling you over the phone. Giving out personal information out could cause you to become a victim of identity theft.
  • DON’T BE INTIMIDATED BY THREATS OF ARREST.  Scammers may try to intimidate you by threatening to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested. Don’t believe them.  If your physical safety is threatened in any form or fashion, be sure to report this to local authorities.

For more educational information on this and other scams, please visit the Consumer section of the Attorney General’s website www.agjimhood.com.   Anyone who suspects they have been a victim of a scam should call the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office for further assistance and guidance at 1-800-281-4418.


Rankin County Resident Going to Prison for Child Exploitation

November 19, 2015

Willard Geven Knight, 24, of Pearl, has been sentenced for possessing child pornography, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Knight appeared before Rankin County Circuit Court Judge William E. Chapman III on Wednesday and pled guilty to one count of child exploitation. Judge Chapman sentenced Knight to 40 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with five years to serve, 35 years suspended and five years of post-release supervision. Knight must also pay $1,000 to the children’s trust fund, $1,000 to the crime victim’s compensation fund and register as a sex offender.

An investigation by the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force uncovered that Knight was downloading and sharing numerous videos of child pornography over the internet.

“Our first priority is our children and with the innovations and vigilance of our task force members to this type of deviant behavior by these predators, we are holding them accountable for their criminal activity,” said Attorney General Hood.

The case was investigated by the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn.