Lawrence County Resident Arrested for Felony Exploitation of a Vulnerable Person

February 25, 2016
Download PDF

Charise Bridges, 45, of Monticello, has been arrested following an indictment for felony exploitation of a vulnerable person, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Bridges was arrested today by the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department after being on the run for more than a year. The arrest followed an indictment by the Covington County Grand Jury for one count of Felonious Exploitation of a Vulnerable Person.

The indictment alleges that Bridges took a check from the victim, who at the time was a resident of the Mississippi Veteran’s Home. She allegedly withdrew $700 from the victim’s bank account without authorization.

The defendant was booked into the Covington County Jail and is awaiting bond. If convicted, Bridges faces up to 10 years behind bars and a $10,000 fine.

As with all cases, the fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime, unless there is included therein a statement explaining that, the charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by Trey Rogers and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Katie Moulds of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.


Personal Care Home Maintenance Worker Arrested for Sexual Battery of a Vulnerable Person

February 25, 2016
Download PDF

James Orell Smith, 50, of Purvis, has been arrested for sexual battery of a vulnerable person, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Smith was arrested Wednesday by investigators with the Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with assistance from the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office following an indictment by a Lamar County Grand Jury for two counts of sexual battery of a vulnerable person.

The indictment alleges Smith “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously engaged in sexual penetration as defined in section 97-3-97, of the Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated, with a vulnerable person, as defined in section 43-47-5 (q).” At the time of the crimes, Smith was employed as a maintenance worker at a personal care home in Lamar County. The victim is an adult female.

Smith is currently incarcerated in Forrest County Jail for charges he faces for auto theft. His bond was set at $60,000. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 60 years in jail and $20,000 in fines.  As with all cases, a charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by Trey Rogers and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Garland Lyell of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.


Attorney General Jim Hood Announces $216 Million in Recoveries

February 17, 2016
Download PDF

Attorney General Jim Hood today announced his office has recovered more than $216 million for Mississippi taxpayers so far this fiscal year, and he encouraged legislators to use some of that money to curb the growing trend of abuse and overdoses due to synthetic drugs, heroin and prescription painkillers.

Attorney General Hood asked the Legislature to appropriate additional funding for programs at several state agencies that are already fighting to stop the use of dangerous synthetic drugs and heroin, while working to prevent fatal overdoses caused by those drugs as well as prescription opioids such as oxycodone.

Pursuant to statute, the Attorney General is required to make recommendations to the Legislature regarding appropriation of recoveries by his office.

“Overdoses caused by abuse of heroin, prescription painkillers and synthetic drugs are an extreme epidemic in many other states, and we need to do everything that we can to stop these problems from escalating out of control in Mississippi,” Attorney General Hood said. “We have state agencies that are prepared to deal with this looming crisis, and they need funding.”

Attorney General Hood delivered $66,207,318 to the state treasury today, the majority of which was received from litigation against pharmaceutical companies accused of illegally inflating the price of prescription drugs paid for by the state’s Medicaid program.

Another $150 million from the BP Deepwater Horizon settlement is expected to be delivered in April. By statute, the BP money will be placed in the Budget Contingency Fund.

“My office has upheld its responsibility to protect Mississippi residents against corporations that would violate our laws in obsessive quests for higher profits,” Attorney General Hood said. “Since I took office in 2004, we have recovered more than $1 billion for Mississippi taxpayers. That’s in addition to the almost $2 billion we received from the BP settlement.”

In a letter to Gov. Bryant and legislative leaders, Attorney General Hood asked for money to fund expansion of drug treatment programs, education and outreach by agencies such as the Department of Health, Department of Mental Health, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Bureau of Narcotics and Pharmacy Board.

In addition, the Attorney General joined with the governor in requesting more than $32 million in recoveries from lawsuits be allocated to improve the foster care system.

He is also asking for the Legislature to appropriate funding that will ensure Mississippi’s voluntary compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision. That decision requires states to provide options combined with supportive services that will allow persons with disabilities to live independently in the community.

The recommendations are:

Heroin/Opioids/Synthetic Drugs

  • $3,802,400 to the Department of Mental Health for the expansion of regional adolescent residential treatment centers, an increase in the availability of adolescent intensive outpatient programs, expanded drug treatment for those who cannot afford to pay and for outreach programs to prevent prescription and synthetic drug abuse by teenagers.
  • $1 million to the Pharmacy Board in partnership with the Bureau of Narcotics to implement a public outreach initiative to prevent overdoses and abuse of heroin, opioids and synthetic drugs.
  • $75,000 to the Department of Health for physician education on the appropriate use of prescription painkillers.
  • $5,250,000 to the University of Mississippi Medical Center for one-time start-up costs for psychiatric emergency services and an addiction support program;

Olmstead compliance

  • $3 million to the University of Mississippi Medical Center for a scholarship program for psychiatry students who agree to practice in the state.
  • $1.998 million for an Olmstead-compliant supportive housing system.
  • $10 million for start-up costs for eight Crisis Stabilization Units (CSUs) for children and youth with serious emotional and behavioral issues.  CSUs provide psychiatric supervision, nursing services, structured therapeutic activities and intensive psychotherapy.
  • $4.5 million for programs that provide individual support to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The money would be used to expand the network of private providers willing to deliver services.

Foster care improvements

  • $32.2 million for restructuring of the Division of Family and Children’s Services to ensure the state complies with a 2008 federal court settlement agreement.

Corrections and Law Enforcement

  • $3 million to the Department of Corrections for a pilot re-entry project at the Marion-Walthall County Regional Correctional Facility to create 100 minimum security beds for felony inmates who have completed their sentences and are about to re-enter society.  From this facility they would work during the day and receive drug, mental health, religious and life-skill counseling to prepare them for their release;
  • $500,000 to the Crime Laboratory to establish a fund for the testing of all rape kits, current and any backlog, and inputting all the DNA findings into the FBI database;
  • $500,000 to the Governor’s Office to work with the Department of Public Safety, Homeland Security, and the Attorney General’s Office for educational training on human trafficking; and
  • $100,000 for a law enforcement training program to be administered in collaboration with the Board of Standards and Training, the Mississippi Association of Police Chiefs, the Mississippi Association of Sheriffs  and the Attorney General’s Office. The program would implement a nationally recognized course for law enforcement on how to de-escalate situations where officers encounter mentally ill persons or those in a drug induced psychotic episode.


Louisville Resident Going to Prison for Medicaid Fraud

February 16, 2016
Download PDF

Labeatris Estes, 31, of Louisville, is going to prison for Medicaid Fraud, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Estes pleaded guilty today to two counts of Medicaid Fraud before Rankin County Circuit Court Judge William E. Chapman, III. As a result, Estes was sentenced to five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with one year to serve, four years suspended and five years of supervised probation on each count to run concurrently.  Estes was also ordered to pay $10,920 in restitution, $32,760 for damages, $1,431.50 in court costs and $500 to the Victims Compensation Fund.

The Attorney General’s investigation showed that Estes claimed to be providing services to a Medicaid beneficiary; however, those services were not provided. She submitted more than $10,000 in claims for home and community services to Southern Healthcare for work never performed.  As a result, claims were submitted to Medicaid for payment.

“This sentence should send a message to others who may be tempted to cheat the system. We do not tolerate this kind of criminal activity and those caught engaging in this illegal behavior will pay,” Attorney General Hood said. “We appreciate Judge Chapman’s sentence and his order to the defendant to pay back all restitution and damages.”

This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Treasure Tyson and Katie Moulds with the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

 


Statement by Attorney General Jim Hood

February 16, 2016
Download PDF

Attorney General Jim Hood issued the following statement today after the House Judiciary-A Committee’s vote in favor of HB 944, sponsored by the committee’s chairman, which would grant the state auditor unprecedented authority to request wiretaps, investigate certain cases, hire outside counsel and impanel grand juries.

“The bill sponsored by the chairman of House Judiciary-A is nothing more than petty partisan politics. My staff never had the opportunity to testify in committee against a proposal that may circumvent state law and violate the separation of powers.

“For the nearly 200 years of our state’s existence, the Attorney General has served as the state’s chief legal officer. While serving in that role, I have repeatedly requested that the Legislature grant my office wiretap authority, only to see those bills die session after session. Now, in this brazen political stunt, this bill takes identical language from my draft legislation and gives that authority to the auditor, who has no experience as a prosecutor and is not permitted by state law and court rule to attend grand jury proceedings.

“It is my hope that the full House will reject this bill and will see the proposal for what it is: Politicians playing partisan games with the people’s money and time.”


Attorney General Jim Hood Reminds Mississippians that February is Teen Dating Awareness and Prevention Month

February 16, 2016
Download PDF

In an effort to remind Mississippians that February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention month, Attorney General Jim Hood encouraged parents to be aware of the widespread issue that has serious long-term and short-term effects.

“Teen dating violence is one of the most devastating, but often hidden, dangers that our young people face,” said Attorney General Hood. “For as much as domestic violence among adults is an issue that is too often not discussed, teen dating violence is even less discussed and less reported by victims.”

Many teens do not report these acts because they are embarrassed or afraid to tell friends and family.

Dating violence occurs between two people in a relationship and can be physical, verbal, emotional or sexual. The effects of all teen dating violence reach beyond their formative years and can cause negative effects that continue during adulthood. Both boys and girls can be victims of dating violence, and both boys and girls can commit dating violence.

Physical abuse may include shoving, punching, slapping, pinching, hitting, kicking, hair pulling or strangling. Verbal or emotional abuse may include name calling, extreme jealousy, belittling you or threatening. Sexual abuse may include unwanted touching and kissing or the force of unwanted sex or other sexual conduct.

Because of the prevalence of dating violence, Attorney General Hood urges everyone to know the warning signs in case someone you love becomes a victim. Anyone who is being subjected to abuse in his or her relationship may exhibit some of the following behaviors or signs:

  • Withdrawal from family or friends
  • Depression or mood swings
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Becoming fearful or anxious of their boyfriend/girlfriend’s reactions

Attorney General Hood said violence is never acceptable, and teen dating violence negatively impacts everyone. He said the his office is committed to ending teen dating violence and educating our teens about healthy relationships, with an ultimate goal to stop dating violence before it starts — not just this month, but throughout the year.

For more information about Teen Dating Violence, or to download a free copy of our Teen Dating Violence brochure, click here to visit our Teen Dating Violence page. The brochure explains what dating violence is, how to know if you are in an abusive relationship and want to do if you think you are in such an unhealthy relationship. You will also find links to additional resources and anonymous teen dating violence help lines.


Former Personal Care Home Operator in Tupelo Sentenced for Stealing More than $38,000 From a Vulnerable Person

February 12, 2016
Download PDF

Demetria Hooper Donelson, 45, of Saltillo, has been sentenced for felony exploitation of a vulnerable person, Attorney General Jim Hood announced today.

Donelson appeared Thursday before Lee County Circuit Court Judge James L. Roberts, Jr. and entered an open plea for felony exploitation of a vulnerable person. An open plea means the defendant refuses to accept the state’s recommendation and instead throws himself or herself at the mercy of the court. As a result, Judge Roberts sentenced Donelson to 10 years, which was suspended, in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Donelson was ordered to pay restitution to the victim in the amount of $38,797. The defendant had $17,378.70 to pay towards restitution at the time of the plea, leaving a balance of $21,418.30 which is to be paid in monthly installments of $500 beginning in March 2016. Judge Roberts further ordered that she serve four years of supervised probation, during which time she is to pay the outstanding restitution. Additionally, Donelson must pay $250 to Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund.                             

At the time the crime was committed, Donelson was the owner and operator of Hannahome Personal Care Home in Tupelo. She pled guilty to gaining access to the account of a vulnerable person in her care and withdrawing approximately $38,797 and converting it to her own use.

“Mississippians deserve every assurance that their loved ones will be appropriately cared for in nursing facilities, and we will continue to prosecute anyone who is caught stealing from our most vulnerable citizens,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “We thank Judge Roberts for the sentence and for making this defendant pay back every dollar she stole, and we appreciate Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson and his deputies for their assistance with this case.”

This case was investigated by Joe Sanderson with the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Attorney General’s Office and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney Generals Mark McClinton and Sue Perry.

 


ATTORNEY GENERAL JIM HOOD ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT WITH MONEYGRAM

February 11, 2016
Download PDF

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that MoneyGram Payment Systems, Inc. has agreed to improve its anti-fraud program to help protect consumers from financial losses as part of a settlement with Mississippi and other states.

“Con artists use a wide variety of schemes to persuade consumers to wire them money,” said Attorney General Hood. “These range from the heartless ‘grandparent or relative in distress’ scam in which a fraudster contacts a grandparent and falsely claims that money must be wired to assist with a grandchild’s medical or legal emergency to lottery and contest scams in which consumers are told they have won a large sum of money but must first wire money to pay required taxes or fees before receiving their winnings.”

Today’s settlement resolves a multistate investigation that focused  on complaints of consumers who used MoneyGram’s wire transfer service to send money to third parties involved in schemes to defraud consumers.  “Scammers will try in almost every way they can to persuade consumers to wire them money,” Attorney General Hood said.   “Today’s settlement with MoneyGram ensures that the company will continue working to cut down on fraud. Consumers also need to remember to be very cautious about wiring money, whatever the circumstances, especially to people they don’t know or have never met.”

MoneyGram agreed to maintain and continue to improve its comprehensive and robust anti-fraud program designed to help detect and prevent consumers from suffering financial losses from fraud-induced wire transfers.  The program must be documented in writing and at a minimum, must include the following elements:

  • mandatory and documented compliance training for agents and guidelines regarding when an agent’s conduct warrants suspension or termination;
  • suspension or termination of agents who fail to take commercially reasonable steps to reduce fraud induced money transfers;
  • a hotline system – telephonic and electronic – where employees and agents can report noncompliance with anti-fraud measures;
  • sound mechanisms to evaluate actual fraud rates and consumer losses from fraud induced money transfers in order to utilize that information to improve compliance; and
  • continued enhancement of technology solutions, including its Anti-Fraud Alert System (AFAS).

Second, MoneyGram has agreed to pay a total of $13 million dollars to the states to fund a nationwide consumer restitution program, and for the states’ costs and fees.  The settlement provides for an independent third party settlement administrator who will review MoneyGram records and send notices regarding restitution to all consumers who are eligible to receive restitution under this settlement. Generally, consumers who are eligible for restitution previously filed complaints with MoneyGram between July 1, 2008 and August 31, 2009, regarding fraud-induced transfers sent from the U.S. to foreign countries other than Canada.

If you are determined to be eligible for restitution under the settlement, the settlement administrator will send you a notice in the mail together with instructions.  MoneyGram estimates consumers should receive notices before June 1, 2016. More information about this settlement is available at the Settlement Administrator’s website: www.MoneyGramSettlement.com. You may also call 888-566-1411 for general information.

In addition to Mississippi, 48 other states and the District of Columbia participated in the settlement.