Pine Belt Businessman Headed to Prison for Bad Check

April 4, 2018

A man from Laurel will spend the next two years behind bars for passing a bad check for heating and air conditioning equipment for his Heidelberg business, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Kenny Franklin Edmonson, 65, was found guilty Monday by a Jasper County jury and sentenced by Jasper County Circuit Court Judge Stanley Sorey on one count of passing a bad check. The check was in the amount of $5,867.50. Edmonson was sentenced to three years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with two years to serve and one year in an MDOC restitution center. He was also ordered to pay full restitution to the equipment company as well as $451.50 in court costs.

The indictment against Edmonson charged him with presenting a bad check to the company from a checking account that was already closed at the time he wrote the check. The money was intended for heating and air conditioning equipment installed in his Heidelberg business, Onyxs Sounds, LLC.

“Local businesses make up the fabric of our small towns. It’s a shame that there are crooks who try to scam off other local business owners,” said General Hood. “Thank you to Judge Sorey for sending this man to prison and making sure that the business he ripped off is paid back for their services.”

This case was handed to the AG’s office upon recusal of the Thirteenth Circuit District Attorney’s Office. It was investigated by AG investigator J.B. Watkins and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Robert G. “Bob” Anderson.


Jackson Man Headed to Prison for Contraband

April 3, 2018

Terrance Lorenzo Paige, 23, of Jackson, will spend three years in prison after he pleaded guilty for possessing a homemade knife- also known as a shank- while he was being held at the Jackson Detention Center on unrelated charges.

A Hinds County judge sentenced 23-year-old Terrance Lorenzo Paige to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to possession of a weapon within a correctional facility, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Paige entered a guilty plea today and was sentenced by Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Tomie T. Green to 10 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with three years to serve, seven years suspended, and three years of post-release supervision.

During a late night sweep at the downtown Jackson detention center in June 2016, deputies of the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department located a homemade knife, also known as a shank, while Paige was being held at the center on unrelated charges.

“This prisoner was able to take regular items—tape and metal—and make them into a knife. He’s a danger to everyone at the jail, especially the prison guards who are paid far too little to face these types of additional dangers,” said General Hood. “I hope this sentencing serves as an example to other inmates who might have the same intention of creating such weapons while incarcerated.”

This case was investigated by Larry Ware and Christopher Watkins with the AG’s office. It was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stan Alexander and Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin Sanders following the recusal of the Hinds County District Attorney due to conflict of interest.


Lowndes County Man Gets 40 Years for Identity Theft, Selling Meth

March 29, 2018

A Chickasaw County judge sentenced 38-year-old Kenneth Lamar Blakeney to 40 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to one felony count of identity theft, four felony counts of fraudulent use of identity, and one count of the sale of methamphetamine, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Blakeney, a Columbus native, entered a guilty plea Wednesday in open court and was sentenced by Chickasaw County Circuit Court Judge John Andrew Gregory to serve 40 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with five years of post-release supervision. Blakeney was also ordered to pay fees and court costs.

Between November 2017 and January 2018, Blakeney converted numerous individuals’ personal information into credit cards, online checking accounts, and other financial instruments for his own gain. At the time of the crimes, Blakeney, who was residing in Chickasaw County, was on parole for drug related crimes and had been indicted for the sale of methamphetamine to undercover Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agents.

“This repeat criminal landed exactly where he deserves to spend the next 40 years,” said General Hood. “Thank you to DA Ben Creekmore for his prosecution, which led to a strong sentencing by Judge Gregory. This is the result of multiple agencies working together to take these scam artists off of the streets.”

If you suspect you have been the victim of this scam, or the intended victim of the scam, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 601-359-4230 or 1-800-281-4418.

This case originated from a concerned citizen’s complaint to the Houston Police Department. The case was then investigated by AGO investigators Lee McDivitt and Caleb Tedder with the assistance of the Houston Police Department. It was prosecuted by Chickasaw County District Attorney Ben Creekmore.

 


AG Statement on 2018 Legislative Session

March 29, 2018

Attorney General Jim Hood released the following statement at the close of the 2018 legislative session:

“Unfortunately for the taxpayers of Mississippi, the Senate leadership was bought and paid for this legislative session by giant corporations with little interest in the well-being of our citizens. As an example, campaign finance reports from 2010 through 2017 show that our lieutenant governor has raked in $193,750 in contributions from the companies that were awarded the contracts for the state’s Medicaid program. Of that amount, $50,000 was donated just last year to the lieutenant governor by Centene, the out-of-state  parent company of Magnolia Health. The Senate successfully killed a proposal that would have allowed our own in-state hospitals to compete with the three managed care companies for the $3 billion Medicaid contracts.

In another example of huge corporations writing our laws, the Senate leadership allowed utility giant Entergy to slip an amendment into a bill that will make it more difficult for my office to take them to court for cheating the utility rate payers of Mississippi.

The Senate leadership failed once again to consider funding road and bridge repair partially with a fuel tax (7,000 – 8,000 jobs), an internet sales tax ($134 million), a lottery for education, the expansion of Medicaid ($11 billion and 11,000 jobs), or mental health to help with the opioid epidemic.

Instead of passing legislation to help our in-state businesses and our people, our Senate leadership is moving forward with massive tax cuts for predominantly out-of-state corporations (78% of $418 million tax cuts go to out-of-state corporations). All of this continues to lead our state down a path of financial ruin. Kansas, Louisiana, and West Virginia wrecked their economies and went into debt trying the same tax cuts. These huge out-of-state corporations fund their legislators with millions of dollars in campaign contributions.

Fortunately, lawmakers were able to keep the state from a financial deficit because of $32 million that the attorney general’s office brought them from various lawsuit settlements. Ironically these same lawmakers once again tried to pass bills limiting my office’s ability to go after their corporate  masters. That’s no way to run a government.”


Jackson Man to Spend 15 Years in Prison for Manslaughter, Burglary

March 28, 2018

A Hinds County judge sentenced 23-year-old Jaylon Spires to 15 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to the 2014 murder and burglary of two Jackson residents, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Spires entered a guilty plea Monday and was sentenced by Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Winston Kidd  to 20 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with 15 years to serve, five years suspended, and five years post-release supervision on both charges. The sentences will run concurrent, and he will receive credit for the time served on both sentences.

In October 2015, Spires shot and killed 33-year-old Cortland Thompson on Sewanee Drive in Jackson. Three days later, Spires broke into a Hillmont Drive home in Jackson and stole the resident’s television set. He has been in jail since he was arrested that month by the Jackson Police Department. Spires was previously convicted on an unrelated charge of felony aggravated assault.

“It is so sad to see a man this age make such bad decisions that it lands him behind bars for a significant amount of time,” said General Hood. “I hope the victim’s family finds relief in knowing that this person cannot selfishly take another person’s life.”

This case was investigated by Lee McDivitt and Perry Tate with the AG’s office and Michael Pugh and Marlo Brinnon with JPD. It was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Patrick Beasley.


AG Asks Congress to Improve States’ Ability to Combat Abuse, Neglect of Medicaid Patients

March 28, 2018

Attorney General Jim Hood, along with a bipartisan group of 48 other attorneys general, has asked Congress to ease federal restrictions that limit states’ ability to investigate and prosecute the abuse and neglect of Medicaid beneficiaries.

The attorneys general sent a letter Wednesday to U.S. Representatives Tim Walberg, R-Mich., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., in support of their legislation, H.R. 3891, which would expand the authority of Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs) to detect, investigate, and prosecute Medicaid patient abuse in non-institutional settings. Under current law, MFCUs, which are mostly housed within state attorney general’s offices, may investigate and prosecute patient abuse and neglect only if it occurs in a health care facility or, in some circumstances, in a board and care facility. That means other cases of abuse and neglect of Medicaid patients – such as in a home health care setting – fall outside the unit’s authority. If enacted, the legislation would broaden the authority of the MFCUs to screen complaints or reports alleging potential abuse or neglect.

The legislation came after a similar group of 38 attorneys general wrote to then-U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price in May 2017, asking for changes in federal regulation to give the states this expanded authority. However, the Department concluded that the expanded authority would require a change in federal law that could not be done through the regulatory process. The bill, introduced by Walberg and Welch, was in direct response to the attorneys general’s letter and subsequent response from the Department.

“Although our office’s Vulnerable Persons Unit currently handles allegations of abuse and neglect in non-institutional settings, the expansion of this work for Medicaid Fraud Control Unit authority would strengthen our resources. I urge Congress to pass this legislation,” stated General Hood.

The attorneys general also stressed to the lawmakers the importance of expanding this authority in light of the national opioid epidemic. The bill would, for example, give states the authority to investigate and prosecute cases of unlawful opioid distribution to Medicaid beneficiaries, which under current law they may only do if the case occurred within a health care facility or a board and care facility.

In addition to Mississippi, the other attorneys general who signed the letter were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.


AG Hood Investigating Facebook’s User Privacy Practices

March 26, 2018

AG announces investigation of Facebook’s practices to determine if the business violated the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act following Facebook’s release of users information to Professor Aleksandr Kogan- at the University of Cambridge- who downloaded his app, thisisyourdigitallife.

Attorney General Jim Hood sent a letter to Facebook, Inc. last week putting the social media giant on notice to preserve any relevant information for his investigation into the company’s user privacy practices in light of recent news about the company providing users’ personal information to third parties without users’ consent or knowledge. The investigation covers the time period starting in November 2013 and forward.

General Hood is investigating whether Facebook violated the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act when it gave permission to University of Cambridge Professor Aleksandr Kogan to harvest information of users who downloaded his app, thisisyourdigitallife. Types of information collected include user location, friends of the user, and user activity on the social media platform, which was then sold to a third party.

The letter sent to Facebook by General Hood served as a litigation hold notice, stating that parties have “a duty to preserve potentially relevant information that may be used as evidence in pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation.” It asked Facebook to preserve both paper and electronic documents that would provide information relating to this investigation, specifically “any and all documents and electronically stored information related to Dr. Aleksandr Kogan and his creation and use of an app called “thisisyourdigitallife” that used Facebook Login to pass data to a company called SCL/Cambridge Analytica.”

“Consumers are repeatedly being victimized by big business’ failure to properly safeguard their privacy rights,” said General Hood. “These companies are entrusted with our most personal information and need to be held accountable when they breach that trust. This is why we sued Google, which mined the data of students who used their educational software. We also took the issue to Congress, which just recently passed a bill that no longer gives immunity to websites that allow advertisers like backpage.com to advertise for child sex trafficking. Now we’re investigating Facebook, another everyday platform people use that is all the while collecting their personal information. Federal government is no longer big brother—these internet companies are big brother, and there have to be rules they must follow.”

Additionally, General Hood joined a bipartisan coalition with 36 state attorneys general in sending a separate letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, raising questions about the social networking site’s policies and practices, including:

  • Were those terms of service clear and understandable?
  • How did Facebook monitor what these developers did with all the data that they collected?
  • What type of controls did Facebook have over the data given to developers?
  • Did Facebook have protective safeguards in place, including audits, to ensure developers were not misusing the Facebook user’s data?
  • How many users in the states of the signatory Attorneys General were impacted?
  • When did Facebook learn of this breach of privacy protections?
  • During this timeframe, what other third party “research” applications were also able to access the data of unsuspecting Facebook users?

As the attorneys general write in their letter to CEO Zuckerberg, news reports indicate the data of at least 50 million Facebook profiles may have been misused by third-party software developers. Facebook’s policies allowed developers to access the personal data of “friends” of people who used certain applications – without the knowledge or consent of these users.

Here are some tips to disable data utilized by the Apps on Facebook: 

  • From a computer: log into Facebook, click on the triangle in the top right hand corner of your browser, then Settings, then Apps.
    • Disable Apps from accessing your data such as friends, photos, and private information.
  • From your cellular device/tablet: open Facebook, click on the 3 horizontal lines in the bottom right hand corner to open your “Options”, scroll down to “Settings”, select “Account Settings”, then scroll down and select “Apps”.
    • Once you are in Apps and Websites, you can disable Platforms that allow apps to interact with your Facebook Account. Then disable the option “Apps others use”. 

General Hood reminds Mississippians to check the security settings on their social media accounts, paying close attention to any area that offers options for sharing data with applications connected to that social media platform. Users should also be vigilant of clicking on any links that they have not verified as a trusted source. For more consumer protection tips, visit agjimhood.com.


Click here for a copy of the letter AG Jim Hood sent to Facebook asking the company to preserve both paper and electronic documents that would provide information relating to this investigation.

Click here for a copy of the letter sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg from AG Jim Hood and a bipartisan coalition with 36 state attorneys general raising questions about the social networking site’s policies and practices.

 


Former Rehab Center Employee Confesses to Obtaining Controlled Substance

March 21, 2018

A former employee of a Pine Belt rehab facility is headed to prison after pleading guilty to obtaining Hydrocodone from the workplace.

Jason Matthew Dye, 39, of Hattiesburg, entered a guilty plea Tuesday in Marion County Circuit Court to one felony count obtaining a Schedule II controlled substance by larceny or deception. Dye was employed at Columbia Rehabilitation and Health Center as a risk manager when he took the controlled substance from a secure location where it was held for patients at the facility. He was auditing the narcotics as part of his job when he obtained the drug.

Judge Claiborne McDonald sentenced Dye to five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with one year to serve, three years on supervised probation, and one year on unsupervised probation. Judge McDonald also ordered Dye to pay a $1,000 fine, a $1,000 assessment to the Public Defender’s Fund, and costs of court.

“It’s a shame when the people we entrust with our care commit a criminal act,” said General Hood. “I thank our Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and Judge McDonald for holding our healthcare workers accountable.”

The case was investigated by John David Flowers with the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. It was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Mark Ward and Parker Wiseman.