Lee County Woman Going to Prison and Ordered Full Restitution for Embezzlement of a Vulnerable Adult

April 17, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Saltillo woman has been sentenced to prison for embezzlement and ordered to pay $162,000 in restitution to the victim.

Dorothy Whaley, 66, appeared before Judge Thomas J. Gardner, III, in Lee County Circuit Court on Wednesday, April 12,  for sentencing on one count of Embezzlement. Judge Gardner sentenced Whaley to 10 years in prison with five of those years suspended, leaving Whaley with five years to serve. She was ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, $200 for investigative costs and $100 to the Mississippi Crime Victim Compensation Fund. Additionally, she must pay full restitution of $162,000 to the victim.

The defendant and her daughter, April Whaley were arrested on February 13, 2014. In addition to the embezzlement count, Dorothy Whaley was charged with exploitation of a vulnerable person. At the time of the crime, Dorothy Whaley was serving as a caretaker for a woman with dementia. An investigation revealed that the mother and daughter exploited the victim in taking approximately $162,000 from the victim’s checking accounts and retirement savings and converting them to their own use. Dorothy Whaley also quitclaimed two of the victim’s properties to herself.  The value of the properties exceeded $200,000.

Dorothy Whaley stood trial in Lee County Circuit Court last November. The trial jury failed to reach a verdict on the exploitation count but Whaley was convicted of embezzlement. Prior to Whaley’s sentencing Wednesday, she voluntarily re-conveyed all the real property, which was the subject of the exploitation count to her victim.

In August 2016, April Whaley entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to serve one year in prison and ordered to pay $33,000 in restitution following her conviction of exploitation of a vulnerable person.

“It is truly tragic when a caretaker, like a parasite, preys on his or her vulnerable charge, and I thank Judge Gardner for sentencing this defendant to pay full restitution, and time to serve in prison,” Attorney General Jim Hood said.  “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.”

The case was investigated by Russell Frazier and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Robert G. “Bob” Anderson and Lakeita Rox-Love of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division/Vulnerable Adults Unit.


Marion County Resident Arrested for Possession of Child Pornography

April 13, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Columbia man has been arrested and charged with one count of child exploitation.

Jovon Eugene Kendrick, 24, was arrested at his home Wednesday by investigators with the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit with assistance from the Columbia Police Department.

Investigators executed a search warrant following an investigation of Kendrick’s online activity. As a result of the search warrant, he was arrested.

Kendrick was booked into the Marion County Detention Center with a bond set at $40,000. If convicted, he faces up to 40 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. 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.

This case will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn of the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit.

 


Starkville Man is Charged with Felony Abuse of a Vulnerable Person

April 10, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Starkville man has been arrested and is charged with felony abuse of a vulnerable person.

Cleatonia “Tony” Burns, 34, is accused of allegedly striking a 21 year old patient who is intellectually and physically disabled causing pain or injury at a time that Burns was employed as a direct care provider at Brandi’s Hope Community Services in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Investigators with the Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit conducted the investigation with assistance from the Tupelo Police Department.  Burns was arrested at his home in Starkville with assistance from the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department, and he was booked into the Lee County Jail then released on a $5,000 bond. His arraignment date is set for July 5, 2017.

“There is no excuse to strike a patient, especially one who is intellectually and physically challenged,” Attorney General Hood said.  “Caregivers provide critically needed services for our vulnerable population, whether elderly, adolescent or disabled.  Good caregivers are a lifeline for those they help and do all they can to make a patient comfortable.  I appreciate the special services they provide, but I warn offenders that any infraction will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted.”

Burns was arrested on a probable cause warrant signed by Lee County Circuit Judge Jim S. Pounds.  If convicted, Burns faces up to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.  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. This case is being investigated by Joe C. Sanderson, and prosecution will be handled by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.


A Benton County Woman is Charged with Exploitation of a Vulnerable Person

April 7, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Benton County woman is under arrest and is charged with exploitation of a vulnerable person.

Melissa Collins, 39, of Hickory Flat, Mississippi, voluntarily surrendered today at the Union County jail.  Collins was employed with Total Care Services of Greenwood, MS.  She served as an aide and was being paid by the Division of Medicaid to provide homemaker services at a patient’s home in New Albany.  Collins is accused of illegally using the patients debit card over a period of several days to make four withdrawals of $100 each from the patients bank account, without the patients consent.  The Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit conducted the investigation.

In-home services not only allow a patient to retain the dignity and comfort of their own home, they also typically represent a cost savings over the cost of facility care,” Attorney General Hood said.  “When a service provider exploits a vulnerable patient by gaining his or her trust to steal,  it can be devastating to the victim both emotionally and financially.”

Collins is free on a $10,000 bond.  If convicted, she will face up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.  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.  The case was investigated by Joe C. Sanderson and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Mark Ward.

 


Lucedale Resident Going to Prison for Child Exploitation

April 7, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Lucedale resident is going to prison for child exploitation.

Daniel Bryan Weaver, 36 pleaded guilty Thursday in George County Circuit Court to one count of child exploitation. Judge Dale Harkey sentenced Weaver to 40 years in prison with 32 of those years suspended, leaving eight years to serve followed by five years of post-release supervision. Weaver was ordered to pay $1,000 to the Mississippi Children’s Trust Fund, $1,000 to the Mississippi Crime Victim Compensation Fund and $5,000 in fines. He must register as a sex offender.

Weaver was arrested in October 2014 by investigators with the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit following an investigation that revealed Weaver was searching for and downloading videos and images of child sexual abuse.

“A child is abused every single time a picture or video is downloaded and viewed, and we will continue to lock-up those who victimize our children,” Attorney General Hood said. “We thank Judge Harkey for the time given to this defendant to serve in prison and the money he must pay back to our children’s trust fund and crime victims.

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


Madison County Man Sentenced for Burglary and Assault

March 31, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Canton resident is going to prison after being found guilty of burglary of a dwelling and intent to assault.

Chad Bowman, 38, was sentenced today by the 16th Circuit Court Judge James T. Kitchens, Jr., for one count of burglary of a dwelling with the intent to commit assault. Bowman was convicted by a Noxubee County jury following a five-day trial. The jury deliberated for three hours prior to returning the guilty verdict.

Bowman was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with 10 of those years suspended, leaving 10 years to serve behind bars, followed by five years of post-release supervision. Additionally, Judge Kitchens ordered Bowman to pay $500 in fines and court costs and Bowman must not make further contact with the victim and is banned from entering Noxubee County for five years.

The burglary and assault took place in the early morning of October 18, 2014, in Noxubee County. An investigation revealed that Bowman drove from Canton to a cabin in Noxubee County. Bowman broke into the cabin and assaulted the victim, who was staying in the cabin.

“We thank the jury for its time and verdict in this case, and I thank Judge Kitchens for his sentence,” Attorney General Hood said.

The Attorney General’s Office took over the case following a recusal by the 16th Circuit Court District Attorney’s Office.  The case was investigated by Larry Ware of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division. Prosecution was handled by Assistant Attorney General Stanley Alexander and Special Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Purdie.


TUPELO WOMAN ARRESTED FOR FELONY ABUSE OF A VULNERABLE PERSON

March 28, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Lee County woman has been arrested for felony abuse of a vulnerable person.

Bridgett Copeland, 42, of Tupelo, was arrested by investigators with the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Friday, following her indictment by an Itawamba County grand jury for one count of felony abuse of a vulnerable person. Copeland was booked into the Itawamba County jail and released on a $25,000 bond. Her arraignment date is set for July 27.

The indictment alleges that last June, Copeland intentionally sprayed Perineal Wash, a blue liquid chemical, into the eyes of a patient while Copeland was employed as certified nurse aide at a nursing and rehabilitation facility in Fulton.

If convicted, Copeland faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum of $20,000 in fines. 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.

This case is being investigated by Joe C. Sanderson, and prosecution will be handled by Mark Ward the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.


Attorney General Delivers an Additional $34 Million to the State Treasury

March 23, 2017
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Attorney General Jim Hood announced that an additional $ 34,441,643.60 recovered by his office was delivered to the state Treasury today, and he urged the Mississippi Legislature to appropriate about $7 million to the Department of Mental Health. This includes $1,985,461 for the reopening of the Chemical Dependency Unit for men at the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield. This would reopen 25 beds which served 336 male patients in FY16, but were closed last year due to budget cuts. The other $5,350,400 would go to fund the state’s Intellectual Disabilities/Developmental Disabilities (ID/DD) Home and Community Based Waiver program.

After an $8.3 million cut to its FY2017 budget, the Department of Mental Health closed two Chemical Dependency Units for men at the Mississippi State Hospital and East Mississippi Hospital. Since then, mid-year budget cuts totaling $3.5 million have further restricted the department’s finances. The women’s unit at Whitfield remains open.

“Many counties have relied on the men’s drug and alcohol facility at Whitfield to treat those committed by court order to stay at Whitfield until they are released.  I have received pleas from lawyers for and family members of men committed for drug and alcohol treatment to see if we can reopen the Whitfield unit.  These lawyers and family members expressed concern that patients can walk away from local facilities, whereas they were housed in a secure environment on the Whitfield campus.  It is amazing to me what a high level of substance abuse treatment the folks provide at Whitfield with little funding.  I respectfully request that the Legislature merely appropriate $2 million of the $34 million check I sent them today to reopen the state-run chemical dependency unit for men at Whitfield.”

A mother, who is a nurse, wrote me about her struggle to help her 22-year-old son who is a drug addict. She states in her letter, “He was admitted to a community chemical dependency unit. He stayed 7 days. He was allowed to walk out after a familiar person was there as a speaker and he spiraled into mental breakdown and walked away.” She continued, “He needs to be in a facility on lockdown. The community CDU’s provided are for milder cases and willing participants. There is a need for Mississippi State Hospital Chemical Dependency unit for those unwilling participants. At the present, there is no place to help these guys. My son will end up in a correctional facility without the necessary medical help to become and stay sober.” She concluded by saying, “It is wrong to jail these individuals for their addiction causing behavior without addressing the addiction itself.”

An attorney who works with those seeking help with drug addiction wrote: “The closure of the State Hospital as a treatment option for males is a true tragedy.” He continued, “For the last several years, I have sought commitment to the State Hospital for many people charged with crimes. It is working! Rather than jailing these people, I have placed them where they need to be – a treatment center. Now, Whitfield is closed to treat males in this group. Local mental health centers don’t work because a person so committed can just leave – which they do. In 2015, 847 males were committed to Whitfield – now zero.”

Attorney General Hood stated, “If some Legislators do not care about the families of those addicted to drugs, then they should at least be concerned that the cost to taxpayers of doing nothing is more than the cost of treatment. Many of these patients wind up in county jails with counties having to pay the cost of warehousing them.”

“I also respectfully request that the Legislature appropriate $5,350,400 to the Department of Mental Health to continue to support the 2,515 people who are able to remain in their homes and communities because of the ID/DD Home and Community Based Waiver,” Attorney General Hood said.

The ID/DD Home and Community Based Waiver program is a Medicaid funded program that allows reimbursement to providers when serving qualified individuals in need of support and treatment in the community.

“The Legislature has been funding this program for several years,” Attorney General Hood said. “Without this funding, services to many enrollees would be reduced, the number of enrollees would be reduced, or a combination of both. This funding will also assist us in defending the state in pending litigation.”

In the last year, Attorney General Hood has delivered two checks totaling $100,158,623.58 in addition to this $34.4 million dollar check today. His office delivered a check in the amount of $66,207,318.37 on Feb. 17, 2016, and a second check for $33,951,305.21 on Oct. 7, 2016. “This amount is enough to cover the cost of the Attorney General’s Office for four years,” Attorney General Hood said. During his tenure, Attorney General Hood has recovered more than $3.3 billion from out of state corporations that have violated Mississippi law.

The majority of the $34.4 million delivered to the Treasury today is from the multistate settlement with Moody’s Corporation, Investors Service and Analytics, Inc. Attorney General Hood and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen led the investigation and litigation in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice which culminated in a nearly $864 million settlement for 21 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government in January.

Two Additional Attachments:

Photo of checks dated Feb. 17, 2016, Oct. 7, 2016, and March 23, 2017. 

Letter sent to the Senate and House Chairmen of the Appropriations committee dated March 23, 2017.