Attorney General Hood Joins Multi-State Discussion on Copper Theft

April 14, 2014
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Jackson, MS–Attorney General Jim Hood, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper and representatives for Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell met in Memphis today for a roundtable discussion on the growing concern of copper theft.

Representatives from Mississippi’s Secretary of State’s Office, Agriculture Commission and Department of Public Safety also attended the Memphis meeting along with the FBI and law enforcement representatives for the following counties: Warren, Humphries, Jefferson, Desoto, Holmes, Issaquena, Sunflower and Washington.

“Copper thieves are stripping irrigation systems and buildings costing farmers and building owners tens of thousands,” said Attorney General Hood. “Due to high metal prices, metal of any kind, from cars on the side of the road to implements in the field, is being stolen at an alarming rate. I appreciate my colleagues in Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee joining me to discuss the issue and formulate workable law enforcement initiatives and create contacts among law enforcement agencies and farmers in our four states.”

Intergovernmental cooperation is important because thieves often cross county and state lines to sell stolen metal.

“Thieves who strip copper from irrigation systems are causing devastating property damage that can be crippling to our farmers,” said Attorney General McDaniel. “It is critical that the states in our region strategize collaboratively to prevent this crime. I’m fortunate to already have strong working relationships with the attorneys general in Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. I think today’s meeting was very constructive and will surely lead to progress in apprehending copper thieves.”

Mississippi and Arkansas are using a statewide electronic reporting system created by LeadsOnline called the Metal Theft Investigations System. The system allows law enforcement and metal recyclers to share information and track suspicious scrap metal sales.

Tennessee is also grappling with copper theft.

“In Tennessee, scrap metal dealers register with and are regulated by the Department of Commerce and Insurance,” said Tennessee Attorney General Cooper. “We continue to be concerned about the theft and sale of scrap metal and are happy to share information and ideas with authorities in neighboring states to curb this nationwide problem.”

Louisiana Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell echoed the other AGs’ concerns.

“The theft of copper from refrigeration units, air conditioners, and irrigation systems has become an epidemic,” Attorney General Caldwell said. “And it could get worse as metal prices go higher. We four AGs in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana are joining forces to crack down on the ease with which copper thieves operate. I’ve never seen cooperation across state lines this good which means citizens in our region will see better protection.”


Cleveland Caregiver Charged with Exploitation

April 9, 2014
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A Cleveland caregiver is facing charges today that she exploited the couple she was hired to take care of, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Lisa Boyd Smith, 44, of Boyle, turned herself in to the Bolivar County Sheriff’s Office Friday (April 4) following indictment by a Bolivar County Grand Jury on two counts of exploitation of a vulnerable person.

Smith is accused of taking $7,987.59 from the accounts of a Cleveland couple for whom she was hired to be a caretaker. Smith is alleged to have used the couple’s bank cards to make purchases and get cash for her own purposes, while employed by the couple.

If convicted, Smith faces up to 10 years behind bars on each count. As with all cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by Russell Frazier and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin L. Sanders of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division/Vulnerable Adults Unit.


Attorney General Launches Online Safety Awareness Campaign Targeting Mississippi Students

April 9, 2014
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Attorney General Jim Hood is today launching an online safety awareness campaign targeting Mississippi students.

“The trends we are seeing with our young people and their online posts greatly disturbs me both as a father and as Attorney General,” said Attorney General Hood. “Our young people believe they are hiding behind a veil of anonymity and are saying things to one other that I don’t think they would say face to face. Some of these conversations fall to freedom of speech, but some are injurious and therefore illegal. I am hoping that instead of making an example out of some of these young people, that we can start by educating them on the facts that they are not anonymous and that they can go to jail when their posts cross that legal line.”

Before launching this campaign, the Attorney General has reached out to the Mississippi Department of Education and to all Colleges and Universities across the state seeking assistance in getting the word out and directly to students. The response has been overwhelmingly supportive.

“I genuinely appreciate the assistance of so many of our educational leaders in this initiative,” said Attorney General Hood. “They are key to this campaign’s success. I am hoping that through this initial launch we can gain even more support from parents, teachers and students across the state.”

The campaign launch begins with the dissemination of two posters-created especially for this campaign by the Attorney General’s Office– to participating schools. The posters are 8 1/2 x 14 in size and can be viewed, downloaded and printed by visiting www.agjimhood.com, click on “media center” and then “online safety awareness campaign”. Also available on the website is a television and radio PSA that will be provided to campus television and radio stations.

The Attorney General is also organizing a press conference specifically for student reporters. Details on that event will be sent directly to participating schools. Any student reporter/editor with an interest in participating may contact Jan Schaefer with the Attorney General’s Office at jscha@ago.state.ms.us or 601-359-2002.

Those currently participating in the initiative include: Mississippi Department of Education, Alcorn State University, Benoit School District, Blue Mountain College, Booneville School District, Coahoma Agricultural High School, Coahoma Community College, Delta State University, DeSoto County School District, East Central Community College, East Mississippi Community College, Greene County High School, Hinds Community College, Holmes Community College, Indianola School District, Itawamba Community College, Jackson Public School District, Jackson State University, Jones County Junior College, Meridian Community College, Millsaps College, Mississippi College, Mississippi Delta Community College, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Mississippi School Public Relations Association, Mississippi State University, Northeast Mississippi Community College, Oxford School District, Pearl River Community College, Pilate Middle School, University of Mississippi, University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey University.

The Attorney General invites all concerned Mississippians– particularly parents, teachers and students—to take an active role in this initiative by disseminating this information on their school campuses.

Said Attorney General Hood: “I want Mississippians to get united on this front and send a strong message to our youth that posting messages with the intent to cause anyone harm is illegal and completely unacceptable in this state.”


Pontotoc County Resident Sentenced for Insurance Fraud

April 4, 2014
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A Pontotoc County resident has been sentenced on charges of insurance fraud today, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Eric Long, 28, of Randolph appeared before Judge James L. Roberts in Pontotoc County Circuit Court today and pleaded guilty to one count of insurance fraud after filing a fraudulent insurance claim with Allstate Insurance Company regarding a four-wheeler accident which did not occur.

Long was sentenced to three years, which were suspended.  Since he was on probation during the time of the crime, Long had his probation revoked for one year—meaning he will have to serve one year.  Long was also ordered by the court to pay a fine of $1,000 and an assessment of $1,000 to the crime victims compensation fund.

The case was investigated by John Mardis and prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stan Alexander of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division. 


Attorney General Hosts Crime Victims’ Rights Week Information Fair

April 2, 2014
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In correlation with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 6-12, 2014), Attorney General Jim Hood is hosting an information fair highlighting the statewide services available to crime victims and their families.

The event, open and free to the public, will be held on Tuesday, April 8, in the lobby of the Walter Sillers building (550 High Street, Jackson) from 9 a.m.- 11 a.m. This year’s theme for the event is “30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice.”

“This event is for anyone who has been, is or may become a victim of violent crime,” said Attorney General Hood. “We can’t always predict the road we will have to journey, but arming yourself with the knowledge we will be providing at this information fair will certainly make this type of journey less burdensome.”

Agencies which will be represented at the event include the Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Victim Assistance, the Department of Public Safety, Department of Corrections, Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Department of Mental Health, Division of Medicaid, Department of Human Services, Mississippi Coalition for Survivors of Homicide, Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic violence and Children’s Advocacy Centers of Mississippi.

An awards ceremony will be held immediately following the event (apx. 11 a.m.) in the 13th floor press room of the Attorney General’s Office and will recognize the efforts of victim advocates statewide.

For more information on the services provided by the Attorney General’s Bureau of Victim Assistance, visit www.agjimhood.com.


MISSISSIPPI AMONG STATES REACHING SETTLEMENT REGARDING FOUR LOKO

March 31, 2014
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Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that he and 19 other Attorneys General and the City Attorney of San Francisco have reached a settlement with Phusion Projects, LLC regarding Four Loko.

As part of the settlement, Phusion has agreed to pay the plantiffs $400,000.00. Mississippi’s portion of this settlement is $14,047.62.

The settlement resolves allegations that Phusion marketed and sold flavored malt beverages, namely “Four Loko,” in violation of consumer protection and trade practice statutes by promoting Four Loko to underage persons, promoting dangerous and excessive consumption of Four Loko, promoting the misuse of alcohol, and failing to disclose to consumers the effects and consequences of drinking alcoholic beverages combined with caffeine. Additionally, the settlement addresses Phusion’s practice of manufacturing, marketing, and selling unsafe and adulterated caffeinated alcoholic beverages prior to the FDA’s November 2010 letter warning Phusion that caffeinated Four Loko is an unsafe product.

“Instead of kids passing out when they drank too much, we found that the caffeine mixed with alcohol made them stay awake and drink even more,” said Attorney General Hood. “It was creating turbo charged drunks. The company was using flavors to market the beverage to underage kids.”

As part of the settlement, Phusion agreed to not manufacture caffeinated alcoholic beverages and reform how it markets and promotes its non-caffeinated flavored malt beverages, including Four Loko. Under the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance and Voluntary Discontinuance, Phusion shall not:

• Promote binge drinking, drinking while driving, consuming an alcoholic beverage by means of a rapid ingestion technique or device, or underage drinking;

• Promote to consumers, wholesalers, distributers, or marketers mixing its flavored malt beverages with products containing caffeine;

• Sell, offer for sale, distribute or promote alcoholic products to underage persons;

• Hire underage persons, or actors under the age of 25, to promote alcohol products;

• Hire models or actors for its promotional materials that are under the age of 25 or that appear to be under the age of 21;

• Promote flavored malt beverages on school or college property, except at retail establishments licensed to sell alcoholic products;

• Use names, initials, logos, or mascots of any school, college, university, student organization, sorority, or fraternity in Phusion’s promotional materials for its alcohol products; or

• Distribute, sell, provide or promote merchandise bearing the brand name or logo of flavored malt beverages to underage persons.

Additionally, Phusion has also agreed to:

• Prevent the posting of, and promptly remove, from its websites and social media any postings that depict or describe the consumption of its caffeinated alcohol beverages, the mixing of its flavored malt beverages with products containing caffeine, or the misuse of alcohol;

• Inform distributors and retailers that its flavored malt beverages contain alcohol;

• Advise retailers to display its flavored malt beverages separate and apart from non-alcoholic products.

The Attorneys General of Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington, along with the City Attorney of San Francisco participated in the settlement.

 


Rankin County Resident Going to Prison for Child Exploitation

March 25, 2014
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A Rankin County man is going to prison after pleading guilty to child exploitation, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Thomas Ed Williamson, age 66, of Brandon, appeared before Judge John H. Emfinger in Rankin County Circuit Court Monday and pleaded guilty to two counts of child exploitation. Williamson admitted to possession of over 100 images of child porn on his home computer.

Williamson was sentenced to ten years on each count, with each count running concurrently, with five to serve, five suspended and five years post release probation. He must also pay $1,000 to the crime victims’ compensation fund, all costs of court and register as a sex offender.

Prosecution and investigation of the case was handled by the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Division/Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.


Jefferson Davis County Resident Arrested for Selling Counterfeit Goods

March 25, 2014
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A Jefferson Davis County resident has been arrested for the sale of counterfeit goods in the Columbia, MS area, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Willie “Bo” Lorenzo Greer, 60, of Jefferson Davis County was arrested Friday following an undercover investigation by the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. Greer is accused of selling the items at a Flea Market in Columbia. Greer is charged with one count of forging any trademarks and labels or other markings used by the owner of the label in the manufacture of goods. While executing the search warrant, Investigators seized multiple items in alleged counterfeit goods, including designer handbags, CD’s/DVD’s, NFL Jerseys, and designer sunglasses.

If found guilty on the current charge, Greer faces five years in prison and $10,000 in fines. As with all cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Greer was booked into the Marion/Walthall County Detention Center. Bond was set for $10,000.

The case is being investigated by Investigator Shannon Beaver of the Consumer Protection Division and will be prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Patrick Beasley. The arrest was made with the assistance of Investigators from the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division. Other agencies assisting the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office include Homeland Security Investigations and Columbia Police Department.