Columbia Man Pleads Guilty to Exploiting Vulnerable Adult

June 2, 2017

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the conviction of a man who financially exploited a vulnerable adult.

Thurman Kerry Lucas, 40, of Columbia, pled guilty last week to one count of exploitation of a vulnerable adult in Marion County. Lucas became the in-home caregiver of a woman in March 2014, and after helping with the finances, he started withdrawing large amounts of money for his own use, totaling $23,710.00. The victim was unable to consent to the withdrawals, which happened over a three month period.

Marion County Circuit Court Judge Prentiss Harrell sentenced Lucas to 10 years with five suspended and five to serve. He was also ordered restitution in the amount of $12,000, which was determined by the judge.

“We have a moral obligation and responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” said General Hood. “I encourage family members and friends to thoroughly check the employment background and call the references of anyone hired to provide caregiving services to a vulnerable person. If you suspect that a neighbor, friend or loved one is being preyed upon by a caregiver or service provider, call my office.”

Lucas was indicted in February 2015, and the Columbia Police Department assisted with the investigation.

This case was investigated by Investigator Shannon Spence and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin Sanders.


Attorney General Announces Operation Broken Heart Ahead of Vote to Fund Cyber Crime Division

May 31, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced Operation Broken Heart Mississippi, which has already lead to the execution of 15 search warrants and 11 arrests in the past two months and announced sending an alert to all in law enforcement and victims groups asking them to contact their legislative friends to replace $4 million to fund the Cyber Crime and Victims Compensation efforts.

Since taking office in 2004, General Hood’s Cyber Crime Division has tested more than 7,000 devices for digital evidence leading to hundreds of convictions, many for child exploitation. His office is home to one of the country’s leading Cyber Crime Divisions. Their success during the years highlight the continued battle against dangerous child predators and underscores the importance of continued legislative funding for this division, as well as other vital efforts to combat crime in Mississippi.

“Protecting children from sexual predators and adults from cyber crime scams and other cyber predators is my passion,” said General Hood. “It is our mission and duty to champion those who are not able to protect themselves. Unfortunately, our efforts to aggressively investigate and prosecute these perpetrators have become entangled in the current budget mess at the Capitol.”

The Cyber Crime Division is home to the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) program, which targets online child predators. Since its inception, the Cyber Crime Division has been the model unit for developing cyber crime units in other states.  The Attorney General’s ICAC Task Force is made up of 60 local, state and federal law enforcement affiliate agencies with a purpose of enhancing efforts to identify and arrest child predators. In addition, the Cyber Crime Division and task force focus on education and outreach to the public, conducting numerous internet safety presentations and training courses in our communities throughout the year. Investigators and prosecutors staffed in the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Division provide critical training in computer forensics and investigative support to nearly 80 local district attorneys and 276 police and sheriff departments across the state. The Cyber Crime Division operates the only statewide digital forensics laboratory, which has been used to obtain and analyze thousands of electronic items related to hundreds of criminal cases statewide.

“This division is second to none among attorneys general offices across the country,” said General Hood. “We have served a role in nearly every major cyber criminal case over the last 10 years, and our digital forensics experts have testified as experts in several trials. There are people who believe the government is their enemy and think that government must be killed. Sadly, these individuals haven’t tried to learn how vital it is to have someone in the cyber unit standing on that wall 24 hours a day, seven days a week to protect us all. The work of this division cannot fall victim to our state legislature’s politically motivated budget cuts.”

Prior to the passage of Senate Bill 2362 in 2016, the Cyber Crime Division was funded by between $1 and $1.1 million per year from criminal citation fees. This was a stable funding source for the Cyber Crime Division. Although these fees are still collected, the Legislature diverted the money to a legislative fund without forwarding the fee to the Division.

Over the past two years, the budget of the Attorney General’s Office has been reduced by 28%. The general fund budget cut from FY 2017 to the FY 2018 committee report was 18.5% the largest of any state agency. The FY 2018 bill that died during the 2017 Regular Session would have been 12.6% below the Legislative Budget Office’s recommendation, which is virtually unheard of in state government. The 2018 General Fund budget of the office may be cut by 18.5% or $5,212,310 below our FY 2017 General Fund budget and a portion of this $5,212,310 General Fund cut affects the funding for the Cyber Crime Division. Previously, the office received assessments ranging between $6.5 and $7 million per year to operate the following nine programs:

Crime Victim Compensation
LEO & FF Disability Benefits
Cyber Crime
Vulnerable Persons Investigation & Prosecution
Child Support Prosecution
Domestic Violence Training
Prosecutor Training & Education
Motorcycle Officers/Law Enforcement Officers Training
Children’s Advocacy Centers

The Attorney General called on the public to call their legislative friends and ask them to replace at least $4 million in funding necessary to keep these programs going. Victims of crime and injured law enforcement and fire fighters are relying on this funding.

 


Hinds County District Attorney Indicted on Four Charges

May 30, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Rankin County Grand Jury has indicted Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith on two felony and two misdemeanor charges.

Smith, 46, of Jackson, is charged with two misdemeanor counts of simple domestic violence and two felony counts of (1) aggravated stalking and (1) robbery. These were filed as two separate indictments.

Christie Edwards, who is described in the indictment as having a former relationship with Smith, reported the alleged assault to the FBI, who then turned the case over to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution. The indictment, which was filed May 25, states Edwards claimed Smith put her in fear of harm by pointing a firearm at her and making threatening comments. She also claimed he threw her against a counter. These crimes were reported to our office after news coverage began on the Hinds County cases. The victim has previously reported the crimes to the FBI. 

Smith turned himself in to the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department Tuesday and was released on his own recognizance with a signature bond. Smith waived arraignment, and a trial date has been set for October 23.

The case is being investigated by Lee McDivitt and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Robert Anderson.

As with all cases, 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.


Two Harrison County Men Arrested for Possession of Child Pornography

May 30, 2017

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrests of two Harrison County men charged for possessing child pornography.

Richard Joseph McIntyre, 40, of D’Iberville

Richard Joseph McIntyre, 40, of D’Iberville, was arrested at his home Wednesday by investigators with the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force with assistance from the D’Iberville Police Department, an ICAC Task Force affiliate agency. McIntyre was charged with one count of child exploitation. Investigators executed a search warrant following an investigation of McIntyre’s online activity. As a result of the search warrant, he was arrested.

McIntyre was booked into the Harrison County Detention Center with a $50,000 bond set by Harrison County Justice Court Judge Albert Fountain. If convicted, he faces up to 40 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Quincy Joshua LaBauve, 31, of Biloxi

Quincy Joshua LaBauve, 31, of Biloxi, was arrested at his home Thursday by investigators with the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force with assistance from the Biloxi Police Department, who is also an ICAC Task Force affiliate agency. LaBauve was charged with two counts of child exploitation. Investigators executed a search warrant following an investigation of LaBauve’s online activity. As a result of the search warrant, he was arrested.

LaBauve was booked into the Harrison County Detention Center with a $100,000 bond set by Harrison County Justice Court Judge Albert Fountain. If convicted of both counts, he faces up to 80 years in prison and $1,000,000 in fines.

As with all cases, a charge is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

These cases, which are unrelated, were investigated by Jay Houston and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn, both of the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit.


AG Hood, Auto Repair Task Force Release Consumer Guide for Insurance and Auto Body Repair

May 25, 2017

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the release of the Consumer’s Guide to Insurance and Auto Body Repair.

The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office convened the Mississippi Auto Repair Task Force in August 2016, in an attempt to give consumers some guidance on navigating the relationship between the collision repair and insurance industry.  The Consumer’s Guide to Insurance and Auto Body Repair addresses what consumers should expect from their insurance companies and auto body repair shops, how to choose a shop, and the different types of repair costs and warranties.

“Our Consumer Protection Division receives complaints from consumers about disputes between insurance companies and collision repair shops,” said General Hood. “Due to the lighter space age materials used in newer model cars, the repair procedures, machines and training for collision repair technicians are very technical and expensive.  In order to place a vehicle back in its pre-accident condition, some body shops have to buy expensive machines or tools and have their technicians trained and certified on the repair procedures for certain makes of vehicles.  Some collision repair shops which do not obtain these certifications and tools, may offer to do a repair cheaper.  The goal of the insurance companies is to keep repair prices as low as possible.  Therein lies the conflict for consumers to navigate.  Our goal is to help consumers be aware of issues and understand their rights in the repair process.”

The Mississippi Auto Repair Task Force includes the Mississippi Insurance Department, auto body repair shops, insurers, auto manufacturers, aftermarket parts manufacturers, and other industry representatives. That group met to find common ground on best practices for the future and discuss concerns and desires to better meet the needs of consumers.

Click here for a copy of the Consumer’s Guide to Insurance and Auto Body Repair.

 


Attorney General Announces Consumer Guide to Insurance and Auto Body Repair

May 24, 2017

MEDIA ADVISORY
Date Issued: May 24, 2017

Attorney General Announces Consumer Guide to Insurance and Auto Body Repair

Attorney General Jim Hood will hold a press conference Thursday, May 25, to announce the newly released Consumer’s Guide to Insurance and Auto Body Repair.

The guide addresses what consumers should expect from their insurance companies and auto body repair shops, how to choose a shop, and the different types of repair costs and warranties. After receiving questions and concerns regarding insurance companies and auto body repair, the Attorney General’s office created and met extensively with the Mississippi Auto Repair Task Force, which includes the Mississippi Insurance Department, body shops, insurers, auto manufacturers, after market parts manufacturers, and other industry representatives. That group met to find common ground on best practices for the future and discuss concerns and desires to better meet the needs of consumers.

After considering the positions of all participating industries, General Hood created this guide.

WHAT: Press conference to release Consumer’s Guide to Insurance and Auto Body Repair

WHERE: Office of the Attorney General, 13th Floor Press Room, Walter Sillers Building, Downtown Jackson

WHEN: Thursday, May 25, at 11:00 a.m.

Media Contact:
Margaret Ann Morgan
Communications Director
(601) 497-1480
mmorg@ago.state.ms.us


Madison County Man Sentenced to 40 Years for Child Exploitation

May 24, 2017

Timothy Flanagan, 40, of Madison County

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced that a Madison County man is going to prison for child exploitation.

Timothy Flanagan, 40, pled guilty Monday in Madison County Circuit Court to one count of child exploitation. Judge John Emfinger sentenced Flanagan to 40 years in prison with 20 to serve. Flanagan was ordered to pay $1,000 to the Mississippi Children’s Trust Fund and another $1,000 to the Mississippi Crime Victim Compensation Fund.

Flanagan was arrested in Flora in August 2016 by investigators with the Attorney General’s Cybercrime Unit, with the assistance of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, following an investigation that revealed he was downloading child pornography from the internet.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first time this man has admitted guilt in handling child pornography,” said General Hood. “In 2014, Flanagan registered as a sex offender after pleading guilty to three counts of possession of child porn in Wyoming. This is exactly why the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is so important-to be sure individuals like Flanagan are not able to exploit our children.”

This case was investigated by Jay Houston and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn of the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit.


Mississippi Joins $18.5M Settlement with Target Corporation over 2013 Data Breach

May 23, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood today announced that Mississippi has joined with 46 other states and the District of Columbia in an $18.5 million settlement with the Target Corporation to resolve the states’ investigation into the retail company’s 2013 data breach. The settlement represents the largest multistate data breach settlement achieved to date.

The states’ investigation, led by Connecticut and Illinois, found that, on or about November 12, 2013, cyber attackers accessed Target’s gateway server through credentials stolen from a third-party vendor. The credentials were then used to exploit weaknesses in Target’s system, which allowed the attackers to access a customer service database, install malware on the system and to capture data, including consumer data comprised of full names, telephone numbers, email addresses and mailing addresses, payment card numbers, expiration dates and CVV1 codes, and encrypted debit PINs.

The breach affected more than 41 million customer payment card accounts and contact information for more than 60 million customers.

“We are living in a cyber world, therefore we must take additional steps to ensure consumers are protected,” said General Hood. “Our consumer protection division, along with others across the country, is happy to see this case settled and to see Target implementing ways to protect their customers from future hacks.”

In addition to the monetary payment to the states, the settlement agreement requires Target to develop, implement and maintain a comprehensive information security program and to employ an executive or officer who is responsible for executing the plan. The company is required to hire an independent, qualified third-party to conduct a comprehensive security assessment.

The settlement further requires Target to maintain and support software on its network; to maintain appropriate encryption policies, particularly as pertains to cardholder and personal information data; to segment its cardholder data environment from the rest of its computer network; and to undertake steps to control access to its network, including implementing password rotation policies and two-factor authentication for certain accounts.

Mississippi will receive $227,714.21 from the settlement.

In addition to Mississippi, and led by the Connecticut and Illinois, other states participating in this settlement include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia and the District of Columbia.