Nine bars and businesses and 23 individuals were issued 34 total violations or citations in Oxford, Starkville, and Cleveland over the past week as the result of alcohol and beer compliance checks by investigators with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Alcohol & Tobacco Enforcement Division, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
The violations include 11 violations for selling alcohol to minors, 18 citations for minor in possession (MIP), and five citations for fake ID.
The following Oxford businesses received citations when checked for compliance on selling alcohol to minors on October 12:
· City Grocery 152 Courthouse Square 2 VIOLATIONS
· The Corner Bar 1002 Jackson Avenue East VIOLATION
· Wards Short Stop 2502 Old Taylor Road VIOLATION
Minors received citations at the following Oxford business for Minor in Possession:
· Rooster’s 114 Courthouse Square 6 VIOLATIONS (3 on Oct. 12, 3 on Oct. 19)
Individuals received citations at the following Oxford business for Fake ID on October 19:
· Rooster’s 3 VIOLATIONS
The following businesses in Oxford did not receive a citation when checked for compliance on selling alcohol to minors on October 12:
· Blue Sky 101 North Thacker Loop
· Circle K #1542 485 Highway 6
· Levee of Oxford 1008 Jackson Avenue
· Three Way Store 1500 Old Highway 7 North
The following businesses in Oxford did not let anyone under the age of 21 inside on October 12:
· The Round Table on the Square
· Old Venice (Burgundy Room)
Minors received citations at the following Starkville businesses on October 19 for Minor in Possession:
· Casa Bravo 7 VIOLATIONS
· Drifters 4 VIOLATIONS
· Gringo’s VIOLATION
Individuals received citations at the following Starkville business on October 19 for Fake ID:
· Drifter’s 2 VIOLATIONS
The following businesses in Starkville did not receive a citation when checked for compliance on selling alcohol to minors on October 19:
· Buffalo Wild Wings
· La Terraza
The following Cleveland businesses received citations on October 19 when checked for compliance on selling alcohol to minors:
· 61 Beer & Tobacco 420 North Davis Avenue 2 VIOLATIONS
· Andy’s Quick Stop 101 5th Avenue VIOLATION
· Cleveland Gas Mart 309 East Sunflower Road VIOLATION
· Hey Joe’s 118 East Sunflower Road VIOLATION
· Night Rider Mart 1325 Highway 8 VIOLATION
· Super Save #18 716 East Sunflower Road VIOLATION
The following businesses in Cleveland did not receive a citation when checked for compliance on selling alcohol to minors on October 19:
· Dodges Store 714 North Davis Avenue
· No Way Jose 1321 Highway 8 Suite 2
· On the Rocks 717 East Sunflower Road
· Pickle Okra 201 South Sharpe Avenue
· Z- Mart 210 North Martin Luther King Drive
Additionally, the following gas stations had their beer permits suspended Monday morning:
· Fast Jacks 203 West Monroe Avenue, Okolona
· ZZ Mart 210 North Martin Luther King Drive, Cleveland
The suspensions are effective through Monday, October 23, at 10 a.m. During this time, the suspended businesses may not sell, give away, furnish, or purchase any beer or light wine.
Businesses who are convicted for selling alcohol or beer to minors face up to six months in prison and/or up to $500 in fines, as well as having their liquor license and/or beer permit revoked. Individuals who receive a citation and are convicted for Minor in Possession and Fake ID face a fine between $200 and $500 and must complete up to 30 days of community service. 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.
Attorney General Jim Hood announced today he joined 36 other attorneys general in urging consumer reporting agencies Experian and TransUnion to immediately stop charging fees to consumers who want to put credit freezes on their accounts in light of the massive data breach at the consumer reporting agency Equifax.
“If these agencies do not waive their fees, I intend to make Equifax pay for the fees that victims have incurred due to their hack,” said General Hood. “For customers who have already paid fees to place a freeze on their account, Equifax must reimburse them.”
The attorneys general sent a letter last week to the consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) urging them to stop charging fees for credit freezes and fees to lift or temporarily lift credit freezes on consumers’ accounts. The Equifax data breach reported last month has so far affected over 145 million Americans, including more than 1.3 million Mississippians.
Immediately after that breach, General Hood joined a group of attorneys general that forced Equifax to extend their free credit monitoring through the end of January. Although Equifax also agreed to waive fees for its security freezes, people are still having to pay fees at other agencies. While it is legal in Mississippi to charge up to $10 to place a freeze on credit reports, General Hood believes a measure to waive that fee in extreme situations such as this breach should be seriously considered. The CRAs profit by selling consumers’ information, and they have a responsibility to protect that same information.
Three actions are suggested for consumers when credit breaches take place: 1) freezing credit, 2) monitoring credit, and 3) locking credit.
- A credit freeze is when a consumer’s credit report data is sealed and made inaccessible to third parties. This prevents identity theft, and protection of credit through a freeze is guaranteed by law; however, the freeze must be lifted in order to open new lines of credit or apply for a loan or mortgage.
- Credit monitoring is a system that monitors for fraudulent activity on a consumer’s credit report—such as a new account or credit inquiry—and notifies consumers of suspicious actions. Having credit monitored usually lasts for one year before the initial request expires.
- A credit lock is similar to a credit freeze, but rather than being guaranteed by law, it is an agreement between the consumer and the credit monitoring company, which generally means consumers are liable for any issues that take place while an account is locked. Lifting a lock is also usually much faster than lifting a freeze.
Currently, some of the CRAs are offering credit locks but in some cases are also charging a monthly fee for the lock and combining it with other services, such as credit monitoring. In other cases, the CRAs offer a credit freeze free of charge, but the terms and conditions indicate that consumers’ information will be shared with affiliates and third party marketers.
In addition, General Hood offered the following tips consumers can take to safeguard against identity theft:
- Regularly request your free credit reports, inspect them closely, and promptly dispute any unauthorized accounts;
- Inspect all financial account statements closely and promptly dispute any unauthorized charges;
- Consider placing alerts on your financial accounts so your financial institution alerts you when money above a pre-designated amount is withdrawn;
- Beware of potential phishing emails; don’t open any email messages or attachments from unknown senders, and do not click on any unknown links. Fraudsters will frequently send coercive and misleading emails threatening account suspension or worse if sensitive information is not provided. Remember, businesses will never ask customers to verify account information via email. If in doubt, contact the business in question directly for verification and to report phishing emails; and
- Be on the lookout for spoofed email addresses. Spoofed email addresses are those that make minor changes in the domain name, frequently changing the letter O to the number zero, or the lowercase letter l to the number one. Scrutinize all incoming email addresses to ensure that the sender is truly legitimate.
Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the guilty plea and sentencing of 29-year-old Leslie Burkett, of Jackson, who was charged with one count each of fraudulent use of identity and exploitation of a vulnerable adult, which are both felony charges.
Burkett, a former direct care worker at a Pearl nursing home, pleaded guilty to and was sentenced Monday on both charges in Rankin County Circuit Court. She was indicted last year for stealing several patients’ debit cards and making more than $1,000 in fraudulent transactions on those cards. Additionally, she stole a patient’s diamond ring and pawned it. The ring has an estimated value of more than $3,000.
Judge John Emfinger sentenced Burkett to two years in MDOC with one year suspended and one year to serve, followed by five years of supervised probation for both counts. The sentence will be served concurrently. She was also ordered to pay $250 to the Crime Victim Compensation Fund and $250 to the Office of the Attorney General for investigation and court costs, as well as full restitution to the victims.
“Most caregivers take good care of our elderly every day,” said General Hood. “However, this one chose to steal. I hope this one year sentence and the burden of a felony conviction will deter any caregiver contemplating taking advantage of the patients in their care.”
This case was investigated by the AG’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Myrick Jackson.
Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of 30-year-old Kyomi M. Fulton on one count of insurance fraud.
Fulton, of Fayette, attempted to defraud GEICO Insurance Company. She reported a 2000 Grand Marquis to the company as stolen and then submitted a false repair report alleging that she had put a new engine in the vehicle before it was stolen. The false car repair order she submitted totaled $3,238.89 in repairs. The indictment—handed down by a Copiah County grand jury—stated no such repairs had been made. Fulton was arrested Wednesday by Investigators Michael Stevens and Jerry Spell with the Attorney General’s Office and booked into the Copiah County Sheriff’s Office.
If convicted, Fulton faces up to three years in prison and $5,000 in fines. 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 was investigated by Stevens with assistance from the Copiah County Sheriff’s Office and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Robert G. “Bob” Anderson.
Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of 35-year-old Francine Owens, who is charged with one count of workers’ compensation fraud.
Owens, of Jackson—who also goes by the last name of Wren—turned herself in to the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department Tuesday. She is accused of giving misleading statements to Indemnity Insurance Company of North America, claiming she was not receiving secondary income while receiving workers’ compensation benefits. While receiving those benefits, it was discovered that she had another job and did not provide that information to the insurance company.
If convicted, Owens faces up to five years in prison and $15,000 in fines. 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 was investigated the Attorney General’s Insurance Integrity Enforcement Bureau and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin Sanders.
Attorney General Jim Hood is reminding Mississippians who suffered property damage as a result of Hurricane Nate to be on alert for tree cutters who may be scammers.
“Unfortunately, we saw homeowners who were scammed by tree cutters and repairmen after Hurricane Katrina, especially those from out of state, so we are reminding people what to look out for when they are in a position of needing to rebuild or fix their home,” said General Hood. “There are plenty of honest and ethical business people out there, but the sad truth is that there is another side to it. Our team of investigators will be in coastal communities providing tips and form contracts to make sure that people do not fall victim to these acts.”
Here are some tips to protect you and your loved ones from fraudulent tree cutters, roofers, and others:
- Verify that the company you are considering is insured. Ask for a copy of the certificate of insurance.
- Do your research. 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 and make sure to follow through on checking them. Look online at reviews of their work.
- 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 recommend.
- Ask how the job will be done and if they will perform the work according to industry standards. For tree removal services, pay attention to the “lingo” such as “topping a tree,” “lion’s-tailing” or “using climbing spikes to prune a tree.” Sometimes these techniques will be presented as a way to save money by removing more of the tree at one time; however, these practices can injure or kill trees, and trees pruned by one of these methods usually requires more expensive restoration work in the future in order to save it.
- Ask about post-job clean up and debris removal. Before the job is started, ask if the company will remove the tree, damaged roof, or other items from your property as well. If you don’t, it could lead to you having to also pay for debris removal.
More information on home repair fraud can be found in our online guide, “Consumer Tips for Storm Victims,” at www.agjimhood.com.
If home repair fraud is suspected, contact the AG’s Consumer Protection Division at (601) 359-4230 or (800) 281-4418. You may also email concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org
Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the sentencing of 29-year-old Phillip Bullock, who was charged with breaking into his sister-in-law’s home to beat her up.
Bullock, of Pickens, pleaded guilty Monday in Holmes County Circuit Court to one count of aggravated assault and one count of burglary of a dwelling. Judge Jannie Lewis sentenced him to 10 years on each count, with seven to serve and three suspended on each count. The sentence runs concurrent with a total of seven years to serve. Additionally, he was sentenced to three years post-release supervision.
In August 2015, Bullock broke into his sister-in-law’s home in Pickens and assaulted her by punching and kicking her while she was in bed. He proceeded to drag her down the hallway and hit her in the head with an iron.
Judge Lewis also ordered Bullock to pay $1,600 in court costs and $500 to the Mississippi Crime Victim Compensation Fund. He must also receive his GED, as well as mandatory mental evaluation and treatment.
“There is absolutely zero reason for this type of behavior, and I’m glad to see he will serve the time he deserves,” said General Hood. “I also thank Judge Lewis for recognizing the importance of requiring that this man get help so that others will not be in his path of violence.”
Bullock was arrested and investigated by the Pickens Police Department and indicted by the Holmes County District Attorney, who eventually recused herself due to a conflict of interest.
This case was also investigated by Roger Wade of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division and was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin Sanders of the AG’s Vulnerable Adults Unit.
Attorney General Jim Hood is making Mississippians aware of the preparations his office is executing ahead of Tropical Storm Nate expected to strengthen into a hurricane and make landfall Sunday morning.
Investigators with the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit visited licensed nursing homes and licensed personal care homes Friday in the most southeastern counties in the state most likely to be impacted by the storm. They checked to ensure the facilities have an evacuation plan and sufficient water, fuel, and generators. These counties include Pike, Walthall, Marion, Lamar, Forrest, Perry, Greene, Pearl River, Stone, George, Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson.
In addition, investigators have contacted the region just north of those counties to be sure they are equally prepared. That region includes Adams, Amite, Wilkinson, Franklin, Lincoln, Lawrence, Jefferson Davis, Covington, Jones, Wayne, Claiborne, Copiah, Simpson, Smith, Jasper, Clarke, and Greene Counties.
“We must care for our seniors, especially during a disaster,” said General Hood. “Our staff follows the same protocol with every storm as outlined in our office’s Emergency Response Guide, and we will do all we can to be sure that our facilities here are prepared to continue giving quality care to residents in the event of a storm and follow state regulations.”
The Mississippi Department of Health website lists all regulations for licensed facilities. If a violation is found by the public, it should be reported to local law enforcement.
Additionally, investigators with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division checked prices of emergency supplies such as water and generators, as well as gas prices across the state Friday to record pricing in the event price gouging becomes an issue.
“Increased prices do not always equal price gouging,” explained General Hood. “Consumers should be aware that a state of emergency declaration does not necessarily give law enforcement the means to enforce and investigate reports of price gouging. The governor’s State of Emergency issued Friday did not include the specific language required to “activate” the price gouging statute, however, we encourage consumers to report suspicious prices so that we will be able to monitor the situation to decide whether to recommend that the statute be triggered.”
Anyone who suspects price gouging should use their camera phone to capture the price and other evidence and immediately send it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by emailing email@example.com.
For consumers who have complaints or concerns, the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline will be manned 24 hours a day starting Friday at 5 p.m. through Tuesday. The hotline number is 800-281-4418. More storm preparation information, including an emergency supply checklist and a model contract to avoid home repair fraud, is available online at www.agjimhood.com.